Virginia Wolf

Written by Kyo Maclear - Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

The whole house sank.
Up became down.
Bright became dim.
Glad became gloom.

It’s difficult to write about Virgina Wolf without resorting to hyperbole. Picture books about siblings are a dime a dozen, but it’s obvious as soon as you start reading this one that it’s special . . .

There are two things that really stood out for me about Kyo Maclear’s story of a little girl’s attempts to lift the spirits of her big sister who is in a truly “wolfish” bad mood: the first is how honestly it deals with what it’s like to have an awful day—there are no eye-rolling tantrums here or cutesy foot-stomping. The second is how beautifully she depicts the relationship between the sisters; you really feel the younger sister’s anguish at seeing how genuinely down her older sister is, and how important it is to her to make her big sister feel better.

Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, making use of all the space available to convey the depth of emotion throughout the story, and moving from starkly greyscale, sketchy lines with the shakiness of the elder sibling’s upset (even the text fairly shouts from the page when she is frustrated) to gentle, beautiful watercolours as the little one finds an imaginative solution to lift her sister’s spirits.

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