Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This is a children’s picture book, yes, but it was so unexpected. I honestly don’t know where I first heard the title, but the book was overall very much about depression and coping/living with someone who suffers from depression.

Plot

Vanessa’s sister Virginia has woken up feeling quite wolfish. She finds no joy in her friends stopping by or the birds singing. Her art box remains unopened. So Virginia sits with her and listens to what she could possibly want. From here she decides to paint a magical world on their bedroom walls that can transport Virginia to a happier place. Virginia notices. The two talk together and eventually Virginia starts to feel less like a shadowy wolf and more like a sunshiny little girl.

Verdict

It’s hard to find a book that deals with mental illness in a positive way. This is nothing like the brusque titles like My Mommy Has Depression (is that a title? I should hope not, but I would not be surprised at all). This one handles the issue with respect and dignity while at the same time giving examples of how to help: listen, talk, be there for that person. It’s a beautiful book.

Bonus

I fell in love with Isabelle Arsenault when I read Jane, The Fox, and Me during grad school. I believe it was for my class, “Art in Picture Books.” In it, a young girl struggles with her weight and feeling inadequate. The manner in which the story is told is both whimsical and heartbreakingly real. I’ve been planning on getting her fox tattooed on me for a while now. At any rate, if you’ve got a minute you should head over to Arsenault’s blog. Since she’s from Montreal, there are both English and French captions on her lovely pictures.