You may remember the fun interview I posted with Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge the author/illustrator team behind one of my favorite new books this year, No Bears. In the interview, Leila shared with us that one of her favorite current children’s picture books is Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear (Facebook page) and Isabelle Arsenault. Kids Can Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of this outstanding book, and I’m excited today to share it with you.
My Summary of Virginia Wolf
This picture book sensitively and beautifully describes how a bond between sisters overcomes the dark trial of childhood depression. In the story, Virginia Wolf (based on the author) wakes up one morning “feeling wolfish.” Virginia no longer enjoys the pleasant visits from friends or the bright, cheery aspects of her life. And soon the whole house suffers from her wolfish mood:
The whole house sank.
Up became down.
Bright became dim.
Glad became gloom.
Her sister tries every treat and trick to cheer up Virginia, but nothing lifts the horrible mood. Eventually, Virginia only lays in bed and won’t even speak. Her sister begs that Virginia speak to her. Finally when Virginia speaks she talks about how she wishes that she could fly and how if she could go to a perfect place, she is sure that she will feel better. Her imaginary perfect town is called “Bloomsberry”, filled with treats, beautiful foliage, and no wolfish spirits.
Of course, Bloomsberry isn’t on the map. But, Virginia’s sister has a brilliant idea. She pulls out her paints and goes to work, recreating the room into Virginia’s Bloomsberry. When Virginia awakes her imagination ignites, and soon she is exploring and adding to the imaginary scene on the wall. After hours of play, the girls fall asleep happy and content. The next morning, they see that their artwork is not very good and full of flaws. But the art has refreshed Virginia, and she says to her sister, “Now let’s go out and play!”
My Opinion of Virginia Wolf
When I first read Virginia Wolf, I consumed it. I was captivated by Maclear’s fantastic, lyrical writing and the imaginative storyline. Beyond the writing, Arsenault’s illustrations are a stunning use of color combined with black and white to propel the themes of depression and joy. Not only did I enjoy it, but Ben (age 4) loves listening to it and looking at the pictures.
Not only was the quality of the book outstanding, but I thought the theme was both unusual yet important. From my conversations with people who do suffer from depression and my own knowledge of psychology, the book accurately portrayed the symptoms of depression and how it can affect a family. Even though my child doesn’t suffer from depressive moods, introducing him to the serious topic of depression will help him empathize and show love to those who are sad.
My Activity Idea for Virginia Wolf
I have a craft activity to go with Virginia Wolf that I hope to share with you in the future, but the front jacket cover suggests a simple activity with a list “things to help lift a wolfish mood”. Ask your child, what things do you think would help lift a wolfish mood. Practice using those ideas to defuse wolfish moods in the home. To encourage empathy, consider taking a treat or special comfort item to a friend or relative who suffers from depression or an illness or circumstance that saddens him/her.
Thanks for reading this review. I always love hearing what you think, so feel free to leave a comment.