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Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrated children’s books Migrant, Spork, and Virginia Wolf have been much praised and received numerous awards, including two Governor General’s Awards. Her children’s graphic novel Jane, the Fox, & Me was published in 2013. She lives and works in Montreal.
I've long admired Isabelle Arsenault as an illustrator, so the eye candy of the cover and word of mouth put this on my wish list to read. But the magic that happens between the art and words makes this a book to cherish, revisit, dissect, and just enjoy.
The book is loosely based on the life of Virginia Woolf. Each spread is a marvel. The story, about two sisters (one having a terribly moody and wolfish day) spoke to a very personal and fragile part of myself and my own relationship with my older sisters. It's a beautiful story for children, but particularly relevant for those with older siblings prone to depression or moodiness.
A few weeks ago, I kept hearing about a new picture book illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. I had bookmarked her blog many, many years ago but had never read any books illustrated by her when this book jumped out from my library's shelves last week.
As the title implies, the story is about migrants. Specifically, it is about "The Low German-speaking Mennonites from Mexico" (per the jacket). I had never heard of them before, but I think the story works well to create empathy and understanding for any migrant community. The language, by Maxine Trottier, is so magical and evocative. I could picture no one but Isabelle Arsenault illustrating the words into such poetic images. Where the feelings of the young main character are characterized mostly as animals. It's harmonious, and dreamy, and everything we dream of creating ourselves - a picture book that stays with you.
I grew up using chopsticks, so whenever I am asked to set the table at a friend’s house, there is a moment of panic and stark reminder of how different I am even though I have called Canada home since I was three. (By the way, setting the table in an Asian family is easy [...]
by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Kids Can Press 2010
Neither Fork nor Spoon, can the lonely Spork find acceptance in the world?
Poor Spork. A misfit in the cutlery tray, a one-of-a-kind in a world of deeply polar divisions. In a place were different kitchen utensils can live in harmony in the drawer this misfit simply doesn't fit in. In an effort to fit in, to