BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Virginia WolfFrom the fabulous team who created the ever-so-delightful Spork, comes another whimsical wonder, so clever that parents just might appreciate the duo’s achievement even more than their wide-eyed bundles.

“One day my sister Virginia woke up feeling wolfish. She made wolf sounds and did strange things,” the tale begins. Older sister Vanessa does her best to cheer her up, but Virginia just wants to be left alone. Still, Vanessa remains quietly by her side, until Virginia finally confesses that “[i]f I were flying right now I might feel better.” When Vanessa patiently asks her where she wants to go, Virginia demands, “If I was flying, I would travel to a perfect place,” which she eventually reveals to be “Bloomsberry.”

When the atlas yields no answers, Vanessa starts to paint all around her: ” … slowly I created a place called Bloomsberry. I made it look just the way it sounded.” Into Vanessa’s world, Virginia brings her stories, and “[t]he whole house lifted. Down became up. Dim became bright. Gloom became glad.” Imagination turns out to be the best answer for all …

How brilliant is hapa Canadian writer Kyo Maclear‘s testimony of sisterly love between two accomplished women, Virginia Woolf and her older artist sister Vanessa Bell; she even manages to mention their older brother Thoby (Stephen). The Bloomsberry garden is a wondrous refuge the sisters create, not unlike their real-life involvement with the influential Bloomsbury Group. A slightly darker fact looms – that Virginia’s ‘wolfish’-ness will eventually lead to suicide – but that is not at all a part of the story here.

Isabelle Arsenault‘s art again provides a perfect pairing with Maclear’s story. Her hand-lettered text alone speaks volumes – from large angry words to hopeful whispers to happy communication. Her watercolors are simply marvelous, transforming a little girl lost in her own darkened mood to the sunshiny sister ready to go out and play. The garden, of course, is the best spectacle to behold, so lushly inviting to the sisters, as well as lucky readers. Come in for a visit … this wolf won’t bite.

Readers: Children

Published: 2012



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