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The Whisper Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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From the Publisher
Behind the Scenes with Pam Zagarenski
A message from the creator of The Whisper, plus a sneak peek at an early sketch.
I do all of my sketch work for my books in my journals. I have lots of ideas. ..some things become 'real' and others don’t. I just play, and I write, and eventually the pieces come together to form something in paint and words.
I will write story ideas. I also write things that happen in my life. On this particular day I wrote about the black widow spider who appeared on my studio window with her egg sack while creating The Whisper. I imagined she had come to inspire me with words, and I named her Emily Bronte. ..(Charlotte-of course was her famous spider sister).
She inspired me with her glass like shiny black and red beauty - mingled with the fear that she simultaneously instilled in my heart just by being who she was - she was a marvelous enigma. And yes, of course I will never know the truth of it all - who can really ever say what is true?
I love to imagine. And maybe just in the act of imagining, one actually makes the stories real. I dedicated this book in part to her, and I imagine she’s proud.
From School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—A sweet-faced girl in a red hood borrows a special book from her teacher. As she runs home, oblivious to what is happening, the words escape. While a fox nets the jumbled letters, readers can discern "once upon a time," "wizard," "bears," etc. At home, the child is disappointed, thinking the book lacks a story. Then she hears the whisper: "You can imagine the words…the stories….There are never any rules…imagining just is." She develops an approach, looking more closely at the pictures and asking herself questions from her vantage point at the border. Ironically, this is not a wordless experience for readers; the girl develops opening sentences for the next seven magical compositions. Zagarenski's signature wheels, teacups, crowns, and tigers populate these richly layered, golden scenes, full of texture and mystery: an elephant and lion float by on a quest, a wizard blows bubbles that become real creatures. During the girl's return trip to school, the fox requests help reaching grapes. Those familiar with Aesop may be surprised that no trickery is involved. The endpapers reveal the edited fable; the listening fox has also learned about imagining and reimagining. Stories about storytelling can be hard sells to children, who generally prefer the familiar arc of a sustained narrative. However, the mixed-media art is so stunning in this Caldecott-honor artist's first foray into writing that they will make an exception. VERDICT A sumptuously illustrated fable about the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library
—School Library Journal, starred review
* "Surreal, staggering mixed-media paintings make traveling across such beautifully varied and bizarre storyscapes exhilarating."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Tiny vignettes of the girl looking at these very images in her own treastured book create the sense that readers are reading it along with her...Zagarenski's artwork is irresistable"
"The fanciful combination of opulent imagery and mysterious detail will have children imagining stories of their own."
—Horn Book Magazine
"[T]he fabulously layered paintings by two-time Caldecott honor winner Zagarenski are so beautifully constructed and lavishly painted — swirling patterns and honeycombs in the background, winsome creatures in the fore — that readers can’t help but fall for this book."
—The Boston Globe
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Top Customer Reviews
My daughter is just starting to read simple words on her own, and I think she is feeling intimidated by books right now. They are linear and rigid -- the story is locked in by the words on a page, progressing through a structure she is just starting to realize exists while also having to acknowledge she doesn't yet understand. We read books or tell stories together every night, but she hasn't been nearly as excited about those activities as she was even a few months ago. However, so far, The Whisper has been heartily welcomed. The book emphasizes that, within its pages, no wrong can be done in telling a story, and that every story can be different with each retelling. To my 5 year old at least, who has been challenged by the complexities of the English language, I think that has been very freeing. I could not ask for a better experience in a book.
I have just returned from a four-day visit with grandchildren, and took this as a gift to the 4-yr-old, whose preferred amusement is video-based. The first time we read it, he had very little to say, single words only, but began to notice the exquisite detail in the pictures with a little prompting. The second time, at his request the next day, he delightedly pointed them out and had a few sentences. At the end of my visit, on the sixth read, he had developed story lines and explanations for who those figures were, where they were going, and why.
We all know there's nothing like a good snuggle with a warm grandmother or auntie or granpa. This book is more than stories, it's memories.
The book is really beautiful with a mixed-media layout and very other-worldly characters and animals. We love SLEEP LIKE A TIGER, also illustrated by Zagarenski, and the drawings are very similar.
This is a book we'll put away after a while and bring out again as our daughter gets more advanced in her stories and imagination.