Book of the Week: Virginia Wolf

March 18, 2013

By Carter.

Virginia Wolf, by Canada’s Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, is like a beautiful dream, wrapped up and bound by a spine. Are you an artist? A writer? A squabbling sister? This story is very loosely based on Virginia Woolf and her older sister, the painter Vanessa Bell.

But it’s also a bit of a story on the severity of blue moods and bad days, as wolfish Virginia finds joy in nothing. When the house sinks and glad becomes gloom, Vanessa paints for Virginia. She paints a place with frosted cakes and fruit that squeaks, and calls this place Bloomsberry. It’s rich and colorful and squashes Virginia’s fierceness. Trees that look like lollipops and an elephantine shrub will do that, right? But so will love. And so will art. And this book is a gorgeous illustration of that from start to finish.

P.S — Do you have any favorite children’s books that are gentle with ambitious topics, like this tender glance into Virginia Woolf’s very real depression?

Virginia Wolf Virginia Wolf

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la rousse
April 16, 2013 at 9:23 am

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michela March 18, 2013 at 7:54 am

M E R A V I G L I O S O !


2 Jenny Lynn March 18, 2013 at 8:16 am

The art work in the book , from what I can see, looks amazing!


3 becky March 18, 2013 at 9:20 am

i have recently become obsessed with sam fink’s work – from the constitution to the declaration of independence…but especially the gettysburg address. i’ve been collecting them for my children – but as an adult, i am seeing these documents/moments in history with a newfound clarity and fink’s use of symbolism is astounding and powerful. lincoln’s words with images of him holding a dying soldier – so amazingly powerful. i feel like his illustrations have educated and moved me and such a profound level…the beauty of his work is almost inexplicable.

that being said – i am now impatient to add this book to my collection, being a life-long lover of virginia woolf and love the idea of this book, especially considering the conversations it might evoke with my children.


4 Carter Higgins March 18, 2013 at 10:03 am

The calligrapher, right? Those are new to me…can’t wait to explore, thank you!


5 Caddy March 18, 2013 at 9:30 am

I adore children’s books and your description of this book and how it handles a delicate and possibly more mature topic and makes it accessible to children makes me want to read it even more.


6 Carter Higgins March 18, 2013 at 10:01 am

Thank you! That means a lot. Hope you love it.


7 Design Mom March 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

This looks like such a fantastic pick, Carter! I can’t wait to read it and share it with my kids.


8 Joy March 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

It’s for a little bit older kids – Diana Wynne Jones’ The Power of Three deals well with bullying and feeling like your parents don’t understand you.


9 Laura March 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I’m so happy to see this here! I discovered this book in Boulder, CO, last summer while I was attending the British Women Writers Conference. I sat reading it, mesmerized, in the children’s book area of the beautiful Boulder Bookstore on Pearl Street Mall, and knew from the first page that I would not be letting that book out of my clutches. Virginia Woolf has long been a favorite of mine, and this story is perfect in every way. My daughters love it, too; the illustrations are stunning and charming–and narratively surprising, which is something I am always delighted by. Thank you for featuring this wonderful book!


10 Pam March 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Katherine Tillotson is an excellent picture book to teach young readers (and in my case, my kids as well as me) that all the water in the world IS all the water that has ever been in the world. My 5 yr old son has especially been affected by learning this and now each time he bathes, he wonders if dinosaurs bathed in exactly the same water he’s using. I found it to be such a profound book touching on a subject so big, but gets kids conscious of how precious water is and inspired mine to really try to do what they can to take care of it.


11 Carter Higgins March 19, 2013 at 9:45 am

Awesome pick. And those pictures are so gorgeous!


12 Julia March 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Another good one is “Frida” by Jonah Winter – a children’s book about the life of artist Frida Kahlo. Highly recommended!


13 Carter Higgins March 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

Oh, that looks gorgeous. I’m also a big fan of Me, Frida by Amy Novesky and David Diaz!


14 Sara O'Leary March 18, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Virginia Wolf is so wonderful, isn’t it? Kyo also did a really marvellous book called Spork (also with the wonderful Isabelle Arsenault). There’s a little profile of her here:


15 Melissa March 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm

What a beautiful book. I think I’ll be purchasing this one for my nieces ASAP!


16 Tania March 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I bought this on a weekend in Melbourne recently: the illustrations are divine and the story super sweet.


17 Alethea March 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Whoa, that looks beautiful! :) It totally wasn’t on my radar, but it is now. *adds to Goodreads* Thanks, Carter!


18 Monique August 13, 2013 at 8:12 am

I’ve looked through many of your books of the week. Big, BIG thank you! You brought back memories of favorite books. I’m excited to read some of these books with which I am unfamiliar. Books are magic! You brought me magic!


19 Carter Higgins August 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

Oh, Monique, this made my heart smile!


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