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The Van Gogh Cafe

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  827 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
At the Van Gogh Cafe, anything can happen. Clara's dad owns the cafe, and she's seen it all--from food that cooks by itself to poems that foretell the future. This award-winning collection of vignettes by Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant is a treat to be relished. So bring your appetite for the unexpected, because at the Van Gogh Cafe, your order of tea and toast comes with ...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jennifer Wardrip
May 12, 2008 Jennifer Wardrip rated it it was amazing
Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com

The Van Gogh Café is magic. Nobody knows quite how or why, but they all agree that it is. Nobody knows it better than ten-year-old Clara. She helps her dad, Marc, run the café. Clara knows how much the café loves stories, and the small stories don't often stay small for long.

To the people in Flowers, Kansas, who have been going to the café all of their lives, the unbelievable is pretty normal, and the impossible seems quite possible. Anything can
...more
Claire Monahan
When I was seven or eight years old and home sick from school, my mom brought me two things in bed: a hot cup of Earl Grey tea and this darling book that I always keep nearby. Of all the books in the entire world, this is the one that stole my heart.

Clara is an imaginative, precocious young girl who lives in Flowers, Kansas with her dad. They own a cafe on the main street in town, a cafe that was once a theatre. The magic in those walls still makes funny things happen in the cafe, and Clara not
...more
Amy
Jul 06, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
This book was first introduced to me during a literature workshop for teachers. It was read aloud to us and I fell in love with everything about the book. I have been reading it aloud to my fifth grade class ever since and it remains a delightful and powerful story. There is always the "event"-- something magical that happens and then there is "the bigger story" that needs a little patience to reveal itself and then there is the "author's message" -- what is the meaning of the magic. All the sto ...more
Ruth E. R.
Sep 21, 2016 Ruth E. R. rated it it was ok
Very little value in this book aimed at ages 6-9ish. There is no plot, only ideas. Kids this age are pretty much incapable of comprehending the abstract (on their own), and require (and need) what is concrete. As we know from physiology and history, critical thinking skills present themselves at around age 12. Before that is the time for the facts and simplicity that will contribute to grownup creative thinking and innovation. With that said, I am curious what motivated the author and the publis ...more
Josiah
Apr 10, 2009 Josiah rated it liked it
I actually think that this may have deserved some Newbery Honor consideration for 1996. Cynthia Rylant has cooked up a story of not-so-subtle magic that is, nonetheless, difficult to pin down exactly. Ever since lightning struck at the Van Gogh Cafe, special, hard-to-explain things have happened, bringing help to people when they most need it and anticipating future needs before they even arise. This book has a unique style, guided well by the experienced touch of Cynthia Rylant. "The Van Gogh ...more
Ben Goldberg
The characters of this book were magical. I felt as though I really knew them. They could be friends. Clara, the cafe owner's, always excepted something magical to happen to the cafe. The conflict of his book was between Clara and the cafe. I like how the author wrote each chapter as a different story about the cafe. I thought this made me want to keep reading to figure out what happened next.
Dawn
Jul 16, 2010 Dawn rated it really liked it
Not only does the magic renew Clara's (the 10 year-old who helps her father run the Van Gogh Cafe) hope and add a rainbow splash of color to her life, but the magic between Marc (Clara's father) and Clara struck me as inspiring, too. Marc and Clara share the work, and share the magic: The father and daughter make an interesting, enjoyable team to read about, from the time lightning struck the Cafe, to the time they met a very special writer and all the times in between. It seems Clara expects go ...more
Maya Connell
The characters of this book were magical because I felt as though I really knew them. They could be my friends. Clara, the cafe owner's daughter, always expected something magical to happen at the cafe. The conflict of the book was between Clara and the cafe. I like how the author wrote each chapter as a different story about the cafe. I thought this made me want to keep reading to figure out what happened next.
Linda Lipko
Jan 17, 2014 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
This is a book that confirms my love of the creativity of Rylant.

The Van Gogh Cafe is magical and there is no doubt about that for ten year old Clara.

Her father owns the cafe and she helps to dispense the food to those who visit.

Once a theater, perhaps some of the magic remains. While Clara's father pens poems on napkins, the food cooks itself, including marvelous lemon pies.

Muffins wrapped in foil and left by a previous movie star have the power to heal. A possum hangs upside down near the wind
...more
Rebecca McGoldrick
Nov 30, 2011 Rebecca McGoldrick rated it it was amazing
We love this book! It's a very good book. It's funny. It's perfect for children who really love funny stories, adventures, and magic. It's safe to read. There are no bad words or scary things. There is only one sad part.

If you liked the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, you'll like this one because Seedfolks really connects to this book because each chapter is about someone new but it still makes a good story. At the end it all comes together to make a book that you will really enjoy.

We would
...more
Abigail
May 19, 2016 Abigail rated it really liked it
Quietly beautiful. Definitely one to read again and again with a cup of tea on a rainy afternoon. Like the walls of the cafe it is about, the book has magic in its pages.
Sherry
Well, not what I expected from Cynthia Rylant, and from many of the reviews posted here and on the book cover. But, I love Cynthia Rylant's other series and respect her work, and I majored in Art History. It was a must-read. The best vignette here was the final one, the one I remotely saw coming from the outset when Rylant spoke of the magic in the theatre walls. I could also tell that the actor was waiting to expire, not literally waiting for a friend to walk in. This type of mature scenario wo ...more
ShaLisa
Jul 17, 2009 ShaLisa rated it really liked it
I listened to this book on audiotape with my sons and I am certain the reader and my listening partners added much to the charm of this book. Some books I enjoy more simply because they are read to me and I believe this was the case with this book. I also love to share stories with my children and the little pieces of magic that made my children smile, endeared me to this book. The story was charming and sweet.
Elizabeth
Jan 22, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Cynthia Rylant. Her collections of early readers' series are great for my kids. I was interested enough to read some of her older YA fiction. I read The Van Gogh Café in a matter of minutes. It is only 53 pages long, but the magic...oh, the magic.

This book is a series of vignettes about the magic in The Van Gogh Café. These are short little tales, but they are charming and lovely. I think writing like this is sorely missed in this time 20 years later. I love the simplistic beauty and odd
...more
Ilana Waters
Mar 12, 2014 Ilana Waters rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, magical book that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. Love the way Rylant snuck in a heartbreaking love affair between two men. And I also liked, in a rather self-absorbed way, the part about the writer at the end. ;-P You rarely see magical realism in a book written for this age group, making The Van Gogh Cafe a real treat.
Tara
May 14, 2012 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: influences
I love short stories and I love bits of magic that appear in the real world. The way Rylant strings together tiny tales about magic in the Cafe is magic itself. It's a warm and fuzzy book when you need a cup of coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie.
Lee
Sep 23, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for an adult to read with a child. So much imagination...so much great little moments (a cat who falls in love with a seagull).

The story takes place in a small Kansas cafe called "The Van Gogh Cafe" and centers on the musings of Clara who finds magic in all moments.

Very little dialogue, the book relies on narrative to gently weave a story of little moments like magical muffins that multiply, a seagull who lands in Kansas in the middle of winter, a silent screen star who wait
...more
Rachael
Jun 23, 2014 Rachael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edci-555
The Van Gogh Café, written by Cynthia Rylant, 1995, Chapter Book, Fiction

This is the story of the mysterious and magical happenings at the Van Gogh Café in Flowers, Kansas. Clara is the daughter of the café owner, Marc and she works at the café after school. Clara and Marc are witnesses to the magic created by the café itself. Each chapter is a new story about the café and the town. The characterization is beautifully described and readers will feel immediately connected to Clara’s wide-eyed cur
...more
Westcoast_girl
This book got 4 stars mostly due to my main takeaway from it: that those who look for magic are the ones who find it.

I think my favourite chapter was the one about the beautiful man who is waiting for a friend. Some of the others were a little too forced. I much preferred the ones that I could imagine actually happening (if I could only just open my eyes a bit more!!!). But you know what? Our ability to write about magic even if there isn't any is magic in itself. So I will choose to be amazed.

T
...more
Derek
Jan 16, 2014 Derek rated it it was ok
What a strange little book. Interesting LGBT moments, quite charming at times, but bland.
Sparrow
Very beautiful children's book. Nice and short for children with less fixed focus and made with its own enduring magic. I read this with a child of 8 years who has a deep difficulty reading and understanding passages. She told me she didn't want to read it because it wasn't a picture book and therefore "too long" and "too boring." Well, by the end of the book, she was really able to tell me what was going on in each of the stories, and that was something really special and encouraging.

One thing
...more
Jennifer Lavonier
Sep 25, 2012 Jennifer Lavonier rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Westerville
Oct 08, 2015 Westerville rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, fiction
A lovely little bit of magical realism in first-chapter format. Sort of like if you know a 3rd grader who, in their adult spirit, would like Garden Spells. I think this would make a great chapter-by-chapter classroom readaloud, too, with the way the chapters chain together. - Becky, Youth Services

Reserve a library copy.
Tiffany Cooke
Jul 07, 2012 Tiffany Cooke rated it liked it
The Van Gogh Cafe is the story of a magical cafe. It is not magical in the traditional sense, but the cafe's magic changes lives.
The cafe was once a theater - which is where the magic begins. "Some say magic comes from heaven, and others say it comes from hell, but anyone who has ever visited the Van Gogh Cafe knows that magic comes from a building that was once a theater..."
Each chapter shares a new person or animal who experiences the magic of making a difference for the other people and an
...more
Jayce Senter
Dec 26, 2013 Jayce Senter rated it liked it
Cute little book. Not riveting and the 3rd person narrative style was a little awkward. But a fun, short read.

AR level: 5.0
Grade appropriate: 3rd & up

RATING BREAKDOWN:
Overall: 3/5-- fun, cute
Creativity: 4/5-- It felt like snapshots of the life of the Van Gogh Cafe which is unique in children's lit.
Characters: 2/5-- I did not get attached to the characters, but they were likable.
Engrossing: 2/5-- I did read it in one day, but that was more attributed it it's length.
Writing: 2/5-- the stor
...more
Lee
May 04, 2010 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s, fiction
Prolific and popular children's book author Cynthia Rylant has crafted series and independent works directed toward students of varying levels of maturity, ranging from early pre-readers to the fully mature. This relatively short, mystical work, The Van Gogh Cafe, combines challenging intellectual and emotional themes and symbols with relatively simple language accessible to the very young. It may be particularly useful for struggling older readers, who may be ready to discuss complex themes but ...more
Grace B
The characters of this book were magical, because i felt as though i really new them.As they could be my friend.Clara, the cafe owner's daughter, always expected something magical to happen at the cafe. The conflict of this book was between Clara and the cafe.I liked how the author wrote each chapter as a different story about the cafe.I thought it made me want to keep reading to figure out what happened next.
Kate S.
The Characters of this book were magical. I felt as though I really knew them. They could be my friend. Clara, the cafe owner's daughter, always expected something magical to happen at the cafe. The conflict of this book was between Clara and the cafe. I like how the author wrote each chapter as a different story about the cafe. I thought this made me want to keep reading to figure out what happened next.
Rebecca
A lovely little bit of magical realism in first-chapter format. Sort of like if you know a 3rd grader who, in their adult spirit, would like Garden Spells. I think this would make a great chapter-by-chapter classroom readaloud, too, with the way the chapters chain together.
Benji K-B
The characters in this book were magical because I thought I really knew them. Clara the cafe owner's daughter, always expected something magical to happen at the van gogh cafe'. The conflict of this book was between Clara and the cafe'. I liked how the author wrote each chapter as a different story about the cafe'. I thought this made me want to keep reading to figure out what happened next.
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An author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and young adults as well as an author and author/illustrator of picture books for children, Cynthia Rylant is recognized as a gifted writer who has contributed memorably to several genres of juvenile literature. A prolific author who often bases her works on her own background, especially on her childhood in the West Virginia mountains, she ...more
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