books

Virginia Wolf, a picture book

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Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault is one of those books I keep thinking I should return to the library, but still hesitate on so I could look it over again and see if I can understand it more. It is a silly picture book with the title an obvious pun on the famous feminist’s name.

The main character is Virginia and she’s feeling wolfish. The story is written in the voice of Virginia’s sister, Vanessa (named after Virginia Woolf’s sister) and there is a brief mention of a brother Thorby (named after Virginia Woolf’s brother). There’s also mention of Bloomsbury, although the name isn’t referring to Virginia Woolf’s social group but to a colorful world her Vanessa paints to cheer her sister up.

No one needs to know anything about Virginia Woolf to enjoy the story of Virginia Wolf. Virginia Wolf tells of shifting perspectives. When Virginia feels wolfish nothing pleases her, until her sister paints the perfect world Virginia dreams of. In the morning she looks at the painting only to see the that the flowers are floppy, the trees look like lollipops and the shrub like an elephant. Yet does she hate it? No, she loves it. When she isn’t wolfish, she doesn’t need perfect.

I love the theme of changing perspectives. I love the idea that something that looks perfect at one point turns out to not really be perfect, but that the imperfection is okay. I love this theme because I think of all the times in my life when I tried doing something and was proud of my successes only to end up looking back at them later and think how childish and imperfect they really were. Finding ways to be okay with the imperfection is hard for me but this story is a nice reminder that it isn’t really the perfection of something that matters but our relationship with it and with others around us. Love is what matters and family.

The book is beautifully illustrated with the color patterns reflecting the moods and all the text hand-printed.

I visited the author’s webpage and was delighted by the quotes she has on it. The one that caught my eye was a quote of Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are: “You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them. ” I suspect the same thing could be said about adults too. Can anyone write for anyone else, or simply something that might interest them? The quote also reminds me of what I’ve read of other authors recently. P. L. Traver’s always insisted that her story Mary Poppins wasn’t for children but Frank Baum insisted that his Oz stories did not have any special meaning but were simply for children.

For adults interested in Virginia Woolf, I recommend The Life and Times of Virginia Wolf over at RadFem Hub. In some ways it discusses changes of perspective too, and what that can mean for a woman in what was likely an abusive relationship.
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