CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012
Virginia Wolf is a captivating story based on the childhood relationship between writer Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell. They are portrayed as having polar-opposite temperaments, with Virginia as the grouchy, unsociable, and critical character, and Vanessa as the kind and cheerful one. Despite Virginiaís wolfish temperament, Vanessa quietly lingers at her sisterís side, offering her company and distraction. She finally compels her sister to break her moody silence by reaching out to her through her art, portraying a garden in an imaginary land that Virginia envisions. Newly inspired, a more cheerful Virginia begins to tell the story of this land, lifting her and her sisterís moods in the process.
Maclearís narrative is poetic and moving, bringing more esteem and beauty to negatively-perceived emotions through her words. The overarching themes of sisterly bonding and the importance of family care during times of distress are crucial lessons for young children, and they are brought to life in the text in a subtle and non-preachy fashion. Older children will be especially receptive to such topics.
The graphics are nothing short of beautiful and inspiring. Presented as mixed media of ink, pencil, watercolour, and gouache, each page of Arsenaultís work could be a gallery-worthy piece. To top it all off, the hand-lettered text works hand-in-hand with the words to bring the complex emotions of the writing to life. Maclearís and Arsenaultís exceptional book is a must-have for all libraries with childrenís book collections and is a display-worthy piece.
Roxy Garstad is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.