[Nonfiction Wednesday] What it Means To Have A Woven Life in “Cloth Lullaby”

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2017 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year.

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I bought this book a year ago when it was receiving a great deal of booklove from the blogosphere, but never really had a chance to sit down and read it until now that we have dedicated the first two months of the year to catch up on our 2016 reading.


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Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

Written by: Amy Novesky lllustrated by: Isabelle Arsenault
Published by: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016
ISBN: 1419718819 (ISBN13: 9781419718816)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I didn’t know about Louise Bourgeois, internationally recognized sculptor and artist – famously known for her more than 30 feet spider sculpture – until I read this book. The story begins with a river – and just like that, I was captivated. Imagine a child raised by a river “that wove like a wool thread through everything.”

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But more than the river, Louise was raised by her mother who repaired torn fabric and whom she considered her best friend in the whole world. It was her mother’s hands that showed her the power of colours, texture, and cloth that whispered lullabies.

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What struck me, though, was how Louise chose to study mathematics when she was in the university, because she thought it brought order and stability. When her mother died, however, she was forlorn and realized how even her trusted mathematics can oft-times prove to be uncertain. And so she abandoned the world of numbers and structure, as she turned to art for comfort.

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I think more than anything, this is a story of unraveling and finding wholeness in beauty by transforming pain into art. I especially loved how Louise’s actual words are interwoven throughout the narrative similar to “blue pinches my heart” that you can find in the image above.

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While Arsenault’s art is masterful, as per usual – breathtaking in its typography, fearless use of colours, and elongated dream-like images that swirl through infinity – I was also taken by the beauty of Novesky’s language, infused with such lyrical cadence and truth.

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There is also an extensive backmatter at the end of the book for anyone who would like to know about Louise’s life as well as the amount of research that the picturebook creators have done to make this story come alive. Again, this is the perfect example of how picturebooks have truly come of age. A book to fall in love with.

  1. I have neglected finding this book, have known about it for a long time. You’ve made me want it now, Myra! Thanks!

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  2. I’ve seen a lot of people rave about this book, but I did not love it. I read it in a bookstore, and sometimes it’s not as conducive to falling into a book! Maybe I’ll have to give it another chance!

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  3. I, too, feel like I am still scrambling to finish my 2016 reading. I loved this book, and I loved how your review used the language of textiles to describe it so beautifully.

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  4. I hadn’t heard of Louise Bourgeois before either, sadly! Those illustrations look absolutely incredible – I adore and respect both creators and publishers who are willing to produce truly beautiful, inspiring books that aren’t necessarily the most marketable or conventional.

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