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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Virginia Wolf, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.. Kids Can Press, 2012. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"I did my best to cheer her up.
I gave her treats.
She wolfed them down.
But it made no difference.
Nothing pleased her.
Not the cat. Not my violin.
Not even making faces at our
brother Thoby.
She pulled up her covers and said,

This is a warm and inviting story about sisters, with inspiration taken from the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister, the artist Vanessa Bell. I love the artwork that Isabelle Arsenault has created to complete this thoughtful and energeticfamily tale by Kyo Maclear.  The silhouettes are an inspired representation of Virginia as she deals with the dark place that she inhabits on this particular day. She is mean, and makes her feelings known without concern for what others think...or for their hearing!

She does not want any visitors, complains to her sister about her painting and wants to be left alone. Virginia is wolfish about her treatment of everyone, despite her sister's many attempts to make her happy and brighten her day. Eventually they find solace in being together and doing nothing. Not wanting to give up on her attempts to make Virginia happy, her sister tries again. 

Virginia's response is arrogant and ornery:


She also feels that there might just be a perfect place; but, it would need 'FROSTED CAKES AND BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS AND EXCELLENT TREES TO CLIMB AND ABSOLUTELY NO DOLDRUMS'. She thinks of it as her 'Bloomsberry' and describes it for her sister.

It is the perfect opening for a lovely response. She quietly leaves Virginia on her own, and creates this magical, idyllic land with artistic delight. Lush greenery covers the walls. Virginia notices and things within change:

"The whole house lifted.
Down became up.
Dim became bright.
Gloom became glad."

The story is told with love and a great deal of warmth. The world in which Virginia lives moves from dark shadow to vivid color, all due to the kindness and caring of one sister for the other. The walls are resplendent with colorful flowers, brilliantly feathered birds and a luscious group of iced desserts. The best part is that it works. Virginia emerges a happier young girl with new admiration for her much-loved sister.

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