Gr 2-4 A bizarre juxtaposition of cartoons and sly jokes with reproductions of the intense chromatic portraits and landscapes of the mentally-tortured painter ends in a tasteless mix. In an attempt to be lighthearted, Venezia seems to be laughing at van Gogh's unhappiness. The famous Bedroom at Arles is presented as ``pretty neat'' because his friend Gauguin complained that van Gogh was messy. The Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear ``looks like he wished he hadn't done it,'' and, soon after painting a ``scary'' Wheatfield with Crows, ``van Gogh shot himself. He died two days later.'' The use of cartoon-like ``asides'' works in Robert Quackenbush's brief biographies for this age group, but it isn't effective in introducing art. Perhaps it is the incongruity of great paintings and slapstick drawings that jars, but more likely it is that Venezia reduces passion to petulance and explains genius as a matter of bright colors and thick paint. The book has some good reproductions which can be used to introduce young children to van Gogh's paintings, but the text is neither fun nor funny. Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, N.J.