Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (InfoSoup)
Louise grew up alongside a river that wove through her life. Her mother restored tapestries and from age 12, Louise helped too by drawing in the missing bottom edges of tapestries. At her mother’s side, Louise learned about weaving and patterns. Louise eventually went to school in Paris and studied mathematics and cosmography at university. While at college, her mother died and Louise turned to art to express her feelings. She created enormous spiders out of metal and stone, naming them “Maman.” She took the fabrics of her life and cut them apart, working to put them back together in new ways. It was a tribute to her mother and her childhood expressed in art.
Novesky’s picture book biography keeps the magic of Bourgeois’ childhood intact. The book ends with an image of the artist and one of her spiders as well as a quote that speaks to her never having lost touch with the magic of her childhood. That quality weaves throughout the book where both the river and the restoration work create moments of inspiration and amazement. There is such beauty in the quiet work of restoration as well as the knitting activities of spiders. Readers will immediately understand the connection of wool and web in her art.
Arsenault’s illustrations are alight with that same magic and inspiration. In one image of Louise’s mother, there is a certain spider-ness there, subtle but also clear as she works with her black wool. All of the illustrations in the book celebrate pattern and weaving. There is a limited palette of reds, blues and grays that evoke the richness of tapestries and the excitement of art.
A top pick for picture book biographies, this book pays homage to a female artist that many may not know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (InfoSoup)
Topher, Brand and Steve know that they have one of the best teachers in Ms. Bixby. She is the sort of teacher that everyone hopes to have. But then she announces that she is sick and will have to leave without finishing the school year. She tells the class when her last day is, however her health worsens and she doesn’t make it to her planned final day. That’s when the three friends decide that they must follow through and give Ms. Bixby the final day she has dreamed of. Even if it means skipping school, taking the city bus, buying a very expensive dessert, finding a perfect book, and even illegally buying some wine. Ms. Bixby would do that and more for them, so they must do this for her. As the boys tell their stories of what Ms. Bixby did for each of them, readers too will see that this is the sort of teacher you break all the rules for.
Wow. This book is incredible. It is one that teachers will adore, showing how one teacher can impact so many of her students on a personal level. It is one children too will love, showing their own dedication, bravery and heart. It is a book that skirts along the line of heartbreak and hope, allowing readers to soar at times, fall down and smash like a backpack filled with cheesecake, and then soar once more. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of a book filled with so much emotion and connection.
The three lead characters are all wonderfully depicted. Their voices are unique from one another and stay separate and distinguished. Though they are friends, they have secrets from one another, ones that Ms. Bixby is part of and they all have connections to her that the others don’t know about. It’s a look at the harshness of childhood, the ways that adults can help and the importance of one teacher.
A powerful read that calls on all of us to be heroes in each other’s lives. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.