The relationship between author Virginia Woolf and her sister, artist Vanessa Bell, serves as the inspiration for Virginia Wolf, a recently released picture book by Kyo Maclear with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault.
As Virginia Wolf opens, Virginia wakes up in a terrible mood that Vanessa describes as “wolfish.” In an effort to cheer her up, Vanessa tries painting her picture and her friends come over for a visit; however, they are rebuffed by the melancholy Virginia, who prefers to be left alone. When Vanessa asks her what would help her feel better, Virginia says she would like to fly to a place called ‘Bloomsberry’, a “place with frosted cakes and beautiful flowers and excellent trees to climb and absolutely no doldrums.” As Vanessa paints Bloomsberry, Virginia’s mood improves until she feels better and is able to go out and play with her sister.
In Virginia Wolf, Maclear addresses the topic of depression in a thoughtful and compassionate manner through the use of metaphor and the themes of sisterly love and concern. Arsenault’s mixed media illustrations and hand lettered text effectively convey the range of emotions experienced by the sisters as Vanessa tries to help Virginia. This is a picture book that will definitely appeal to an adult audience who can understand the story on multiple levels.
Check the WRL catalog for Virginia Wolf.