Archive for January 9th, 2016


by Sam Juliano

One would be hard pressed, stroke for stroke, image for image, idea for idea to find a more imaginative or phantasmagorical picture book in 2015 than Pamela Zagarenski’s surrealist The Whisper, the first book this celebrated two-time Caldecott Honor winning artist has also written herself.  The Whisper, which made me think of Lewis Carroll is a book within a book, and an indescribably beautiful visualization of a time-worn creative writing assignment, where students are asked to write a story based on a series of pictures.  But alas no students have yet been given the kind of ravishing art Zagarenski has been known for throughout her career, nor perhaps have been temped with such imaginative provocations, nor with such challenging, intricate tapestries.  Zagarenski’s sensibilities  are Felliniesque though her mixed media application, elaborate design and kaleidoscopic imagery.  The Whisper is about the power of storytelling and the limitless imagination, but it is also a fever dream, with connecting images, designs and colors, that carries over the artist’s previous preoccupation with crowns, teacups wheels, tigers and the heavens.    There is wonder, enchantment, and magic in a story where the words fly out of the book while the girl carries it home from school, but a fox catches them with a net in the central conceit.    This is the Seven Voyages of Sinbad meets Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, though Zagarenski’s dreamy ideas are far more benign if suggestive. (more…)

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