Virginia Wolf Hardcover – Mar 1 2012
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* "In the literary bounty of books about bad moods and bad days, this one goes deeper than most, poignantly showing literal and metaphorical glimpses of real depression. ... At the wolf's suggestion, Vanessa paints a whimsical, expanding world called 'Bloomsberry,' bursting with blossoms, birds and magic. Arsenault reproduces the earlier 'Up became down' spread but inverts its position and hue: Now objects waft upwards and the mood is buoyant. The wolf -- previously a black near-silhouette with snout and tail, wearing a dress -- morphs back into a girl. Wolf ears, silhouetted from behind, become a hair bow. Ink, pencil and paint deftly divide color from black-and-white as emotional symbolism. Lettering is carefully handwritten. Knowledge of Virginia Woolf and her painter-sister Vanessa Bell is unnecessary; this works beautifully as a bad-day/bad-mood or animal-transformation tale, while readers who know actual depression will find it handled with tenderly forceful aplomb. (Picture book. 5-10)" --Kirkus (starred review)
* "Drawing inspiration from Virginia Woolf and her sister, Maclear tells the story of two siblings who share a strong bond and creative spirit despite their dissimilar personalities. ... It is the delicacy of the mixed-media illustrations (ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache) that tames the feral Virginia and gives real strength to the story. Parents will enjoy sharing this book with their sometimes 'wolfish' children." --School Library Journal (starred review)
"...an ambitious story about girlish blues, sisterly differences and the healing power of art. ...Isabelle Arsenault, who won a Times Best Illustrated award last year for her work on 'Migrant,' by Maxine Trottier, imaginatively and deliciously depicts a child's inner world." --New York Times
About the Author
Kyo Maclear is an award-winning writer and novelist. Her first book for children, Spork, has received a number of honors, including a 2011 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award nomination. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Isabelle Arsenault has illustrated several children's books, including Spork, My Letter to the World and Other Poems and Mr. Gaugin's Heart. She has received many awards for her work, including the Governor General's Award for Illustration. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.
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Loosely based on sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, Virginia Wolf tells the tale of a little girl who tries everything she can to pull her sister out of the doldrums. Her gift is an imaginary world, Bloomsberry, painted on the walls, and it works to turn her sister from glum to glad.
This is a multi-layered book that will delight children and adults alike. The adorable characters, raw emotion, and contrasts will appeal to even the youngest child, and the parent reading it aloud will enjoy the references to Woolf's writing, the message about sibling relationships, and the marvelous use of language.
Isabelle Arsenault is a multi-award winning illustrator whose mixed media illustrations add an extra layer to Kyo Maclear's marvelous words. Her use of black and for the ill-tempered wolfish girl and her world contrasts well against the colors of the world when Virginia is happy again. Her art is as much a tribute to the talent of Vanessa Bell as Maclear's stunning language is a tribute to Virginia Woolf.
Highly recommended for any family with a child who has tantrums.
I love that this book has the potential to inspire and guide not only the grumpiest, most wolfish child, but also adults who've also fallen prey to their wolfish tendencies. No matter your age, Vanessa's determination and the beautiful illustrations within Virginia Wolf's pages has the power to inspire and slowly tame the wolf within.
Key Words and Ideas:
Learning to deal with and handle emotion
Using art as an emotional outlet
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear is something that both my 2 year old and my 7 year old have enjoyed. The illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault are absolutely charming, and the hand lettering is done in D'nealian, which is the handwriting program my son Bruce uses at school.
Virginia Wolf tells the story of two sisters named Virginia and Vanessa. One day, Virginia wakes up in a really sour mood and turns into a wolf. Vanessa spends the rest of the book trying to help her sister choose to feel better. At one point, Bloomsberry is mentioned. When we finally see Virginia's face without the wolf head, she does indeed have a very distinctive looking nose.
This book is similar in merit to When Sophie Gets Angry because it helps children understand "big emotions" and think about socially appropriate ways to handle them. I'm not sure how much either of my kids learned about the real Virginia Woolf, but they are at least going to be familiar with her name and know that sometimes she suffered from really dark moods.