Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, Isabelle Arsenault |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Virginia Wolf

Virginia Wolf

5.0 1
by Kyo Maclear, Isabelle Arsenault

Vanessa's sister, Virginia, is in a ?wolfish? mood —- growling, howling and acting very strange. It's a funk so fierce, the whole household feels topsy-turvy. Vanessa tries everything she can think of to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work. Then Virginia tells Vanessa about an imaginary, perfect place called Bloomsberry. Armed with an idea, Vanessa begins


Vanessa's sister, Virginia, is in a ?wolfish? mood —- growling, howling and acting very strange. It's a funk so fierce, the whole household feels topsy-turvy. Vanessa tries everything she can think of to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work. Then Virginia tells Vanessa about an imaginary, perfect place called Bloomsberry. Armed with an idea, Vanessa begins to paint Bloomsberry on the bedroom walls, transforming them into a beautiful garden complete with a ladder and swing ?so that what was down could climb up.? Before long, Virginia, too, has picked up a brush and undergoes a surprising transformation of her own. Loosely based on the relationship between author Virginia Woolf and her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, Virginia Wolf is an uplifting story for readers of all ages.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s not often that a writer-illustrator team conceives a second work so much more ambitious and complex than the first (in this case, 2010’s Spork), and rarer still to execute it so well. In an invented episode from Virginia Woolf’s depression-beset youth, young Vanessa Bell narrates the story of one of her sister’s bad spells, punning on Woolf’s adult surname: “She made wolf sounds and did strange things.” Virginia’s rages disrupt the entire household (“Up became down. Bright became dim”) until Virginia expresses a wish to fly to “a perfect place.... with frosted cakes and beautiful flowers.” “Where is that?” Vanessa asks. “Bloomsberry, of course,” Virginia answers. As Virginia sleeps, Vanessa paints “Bloomsberry” for her sister on endless sheets of drawing paper, remaking the world for her. Arsenault conveys the transformation by moving suddenly from b&w silhouettes to a swirling, multicolored fantasy of swings, cupcakes, and gigantic flowers. Some readers may be shaken by Virginia’s ferocity—it’s hard to soften madness—but Vanessa’s act of love is recounted with grace and sensitivity in this remarkable collaboration. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"One day my sister Virginia woke up feeling wolfish." So her wolf-like head and behavior make her sister Vanessa upset, as she shouts at her, in all upper-case letters, things like: "DO NOT WEAR THAT CHEERFUL YELLOW DRESS." Virginia sinks the whole house; nothing pleases her. Vanessa lies down next to her, wanting to help. Virginia talks of flying to Bloomsberry, but Vanessa can't find that in the atlas. So Vanessa paints a picture for her of a garden she calls Bloomsberry. Virginia wakes up and joins in the creation. The house begins to lift. After a good night's sleep, Virginia wakes up critical of the picture, but loving it. She smiles and is ready to go out and play, a whole girl again. Ink, pencil, watercolor, and gouache assembled digitally visualize this youthful fantasy. At first the sisters occupy a black and white world. But Vanessa's image of Bloomsberry bursts with the brightness of summer colors, a flower garden with happy creatures. The text is hand lettered to add to the fanciful appeal. In the final scene, the sisters are in full color, happy in a garden overflowing with floral life. Although it is mentioned on the jacket flap, any knowledge of the original Virginia Wolf, her sister Vanessa, and Bloomsbury is not necessary, but adds an extra dimension to the story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—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. When Virginia awakens in a wolfish mood, Vanessa uses her imagination to right the upside-down world. Through her wall paintings, she takes Virginia and readers out of the bad mood and into Bloomsberry, the perfect place. The wolfish mood is communicated not only through words ("Do not brush your teeth so loudly"), but also through the size and style of text. The louder Virginia howls, the larger and wilder the lettering becomes. As Vanessa's paintings develop, the wolf's silhouette changes into a girl wearing a hair bow. Gray shapes strewn across the pages settle down into the colorful and serene flowers of Bloomsberry. 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.—Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH
Kirkus Reviews
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. "One day my sister Virginia woke up feeling wolfish. She made wolf sounds and did strange things," begins narrator Vanessa. Huddled in bed, only pointy ears showing, is a wolf. Virginia's unable to bear the bright-yellow gingham of Vanessa's dress or the sound of Vanessa brushing her own teeth. This is potent misery: "The whole house sank. Up became down. Bright became dim." Vanessa creeps into bed to comfort her sister, but what finally helps is painting. 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)
Pamela Paul
…an ambitious story about girlish blues, sisterly differences and the healing power of art…Isabelle Arsenault…imaginatively and deliciously depicts a child's inner world by altering her outward appearance.
—The New York Times

Product Details

Kids Can Press, Limited
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.60(d)
AD380L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet 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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