Mister Orange is about a twelve-year-old boy and his life in New York City during World War II. Linus has just inherited his older brother's shoes, his grocery delivery job, his room, and his treasured comic book collection. The cause of all this is that his older brother Albie has just enlisted in the U.S. Army and is leaving the next day for basic training and war. Linus is excited and proud of Albie, but he can't understand why his mother is so upset and his father looks so worried. As the story moves on Linus learns the ins and outs of his grocery route and how to keep his customers happy. Unfortunately, Linus has to learn that real war isn't like the battles in Albie's comic books, and that people are dying to protect what they believe in. One of Linus delivery customers, nicknamed "Mr. Orange" due to his bi-monthly order of oranges and difficult last name, helps Linus understand that we have to fight for what we believe in or there won't be a reason to live. Unfortunately "Mister Orange" passes away at the end of the story, and it takes another 2 years for Linus to see a poster for the opening of an art exhibit to realize that he is the famous painter Piet Mondrian. The war has changed life for everyone, but Linus realizes that you have to have the imagination to move forward.
Broadway Boogie-Woogie, 1942-43--Piet Mondrian
It is "Mister Orange" that helps Linus understand why Albie and other young men were marching off to war.When Linus asks "What does the future matter, as long as we're still in the middle of the war?" (pg.123) "Mister Orange" replies, Winning the war is the same thing as fighting for the future...A future where people have their freedom and are allowed to say what they believe and to have an opinion of their own.....Whenever people have their freedom taken away, they always fight back. Sooner or later....V for Victory". I know it was a different time, but I thought that it was sad that the only person that took the time to really talk to Linus was a man that for the most part was a strange. All the other adults in the story were just focused on getting to the next day. It was even "Mister Orange's" words "Have you very much hurt yourself?" that made Linus realize that he needed to mend his friendship with his friend Liam, and that it was worth saving. He became a mentor to Linus when he needed someone the most.
I thought it was interesting how, at the beginning of the story, Linus has a very simplistic view of the war. He imagines it to be just like Albie's comic books. The good guy always saves the day and the bad guy always loses. Linus believes that Mister Superspeed will be able to protect Albie and save the world. He has numerous internal conversations with Mister Superspeed about different imaginary war battles. However as the book moves along and Linus reads Albie's letter learns the truth about the war, he finds that Mister Superspeed isn't able to save everyone. With a more mature understanding of what we were fighting for Linus no longer needs Mister Superspeed. He has come to terms with the harshness of war and now he has the "Mister Orange's" future of light and rythm to look forward too.
I enjoyed reading Mister Orange, and I thought it was very creative how Truus Maffi used a famous artist as character in a fiction story. Especially since Piet Mondrian and his work focus on the future and many people at that point in history feared that there would be no future. I also found the notes on Mondrian at the back of the book informative. Next time I am in Washington, D.C. I will be dropping by the National Gallery to see some of his work.