Isabelle Arsenault’s watercolor illustrations feature fine pencil and ink work, smudgy trees and giant flowers, and always the urgency of life flowing onward, its energy embodied either in water or in thread. The lines in the pictures keep the eye moving. They draw attention to the lonely figure at the heart of Amy Novesky’s picture book biography, Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois.
It was the art that made me realize how intentional Novesky’s opening is in this book. At first, I almost read past it:
Louise was raised by a river.
Of course. She was raised on its banks, right?
Wait. The lines of the water, so clear and purposeful, made me think again. Are those waves or boats, and does it matter? Reading onward, I could feel the water as it shows up again and again. I could see its movement echoed in swirls of thread and the chaos of a life. I could feel a break in my own heart when the water disappeared and an affirmation when the famous spider appeared, picking up once again the threads of the artist’s life. A complex, interesting book, weaving art and words together as only a picture book can.