I forgot where I first heard of this book. It must have been on a booktube channel or while perusing Book Outlet for books to buy. It’s weird, but a few of the books on my Goodreads TBR were added because I saw them on Book Outlet but didn’t want to purchase them at the time. Basically, I was drawn to them because of the cover or, in this case, the title.
I love art and enjoy visiting art museums. I’ve often thought it would be cool to read a fantasy novel where the protagonist has to enter paintings and pictures; so when I saw the title of this book and read the synopsis, I got excited. It’s the type of story I’ve daydreamed about.
Behind the Canvas is a stand-alone middle-grade fantasy novel about a girl named Claudia Miravista who loves art but has no close friends. While on a fieldtrip to a local art museum in her hometown in Illinois, she notices a boy with bright blue eyes in a painting. But when she points him out to two of her classmates, she realizes he has disappeared.
When Claudia gets home from the museum, she sees the boy again in a painting in her bedroom and… he speaks to her. This frightens Claudia at first, but they soon become friends and Claudia learns that the boy, Pim, was trapped in the world behind the canvas by an awful witch. When she learns more about Pim’s plight and how the world behind the canvas was created, Claudia decides to help Pim escape it because humans aren’t meant to live in the world behind the canvas.
However, when Claudia enters the world behind the canvas. She learns that Pim may not be as he seems and she may have been led into a trap. Claudia must decide if she will trust in her friend and help him to escape a world he doesn’t belong in or believe the horrible things she has heard about him and focus on her own escape from the world behind the canvas. (Goodreads)
As appealing as the synopsis sounds, I didn’t enjoy reading the story and gave it a low rating. This surprised me because I was gung-ho for the idea of a world that can be entered through paintings and liked the snarky art history facts in the footnotes.
But the snarky art history facts were the only thing I liked about the story. I was annoyed by Claudia, thought some things progressed too quickly (such as Claudia’s friendship and trust in Pim), thought other things didn’t receive sufficient development or explanation (how did Pim get from the painting in the museum to the one at her house so quickly; and I thought we would learn more about Granny Custos), and thought the pace too slow. But I think the main reason why I didn’t enjoy reading the story is because it lacked wonder.
The protagonist, Claudia, expresses little to no amazement at the odd, quirky, mind-blowing things she encounters in the world behind the canvas. Claudia a fan of art, a total art nerd. I expected her to be excited about entering such a world and interacting with the subjects of famous paintings, but I didn’t get that feeling from her and because of that I wasn’t amazed at the world or find it fascinating in any way.
Actually, I was bored the entire time I read and was tempted to DNF (i.e. not finish) the book many times. What kept me going is that the book is short (about 322 pages) and I was curious to see what becomes of Pim at the end and what else we would learn of the world and Granny Custos. But the boredom started to wear on me and I skimmed the few remaining chapters to the end.
I wasn’t impressed and the end made me think another book would follow this one. It felt unfinished to me, but that might just be me being curious about Granny Custos. But despite that, I don’t think the end wraps up the story well. This one just didn’t work for me.
However, on the positive side, the story is written well, the art history facts are sure to interest readers, and it was interesting to see how Vance incorporated aspects of famous paintings into the story. It was an okay read.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
One star because I didn’t enjoy it and I mostly use my star ratings to reflect my level of enjoyment, and an additional 1.5 stars because the writing is okay and I like the art history facts.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Although I was bored by it, I do recommend the book because of the snarky art history facts. It could be a fun read for those who love art and a great way to get kids interested in art and art history. Also, based on the ratings it has received on Goodreads, other readers have enjoyed the book.