The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski
Inspirational Art and Story
By Connie Goldin, LMFT
The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski is one of the most beautiful children’s books I have ever seen. It is about a young girl who borrows a magic book from her teacher and spends the night creating stories for a book without words, yet full of wonderful illustrations. Each of the invented stories sound wonderful, but the reader only gets a glimpse of them. Zagarenski’s illustrations are magical. Immediately I was reminded of the painting, “The Woman in Gold” by Gustav Klimt. The artist, Marc Chagall, also came into my mind, with his use of bright colors, fantasy and whimsy. Zagarenski paints bees, behives, crowns, gold rings, keys, wheels, and shining gold orbs on her pages. Her art is lush and fantastic. While I was looking at Marc Chagall’s paintings on the internet, I came upon the name of his office in a building called, “The Beehive.” I was delighted to muse that perhaps Pamela Zagarenski, Illustrator/ Author, is influenced Marc Chagall. If I were an artist, I would be influenced by Klimt, Chagall, and Zagarenski! Zagarenski is the winner of two Caldecott Honors.
The Whisper is a book for readers and art lovers of all ages. It may not a book for the youngest children because it is sophisticated and complex. However, I can imagine a child becoming captivated by the illustrations and enjoy finding all the beautiful objects in the book, with Mom or Dad enjoying them, too. The Whisper ends with the Aesop’s Fable about The Fox and the Sour Grapes. In the original tale, the fox can’t reach the grapes so he tells people that the grapes were sour, anyway. This is where the expression “sour grapes” comes from. In The Whisper, the smart fox gives the little girl a bag full of words for the book. She thanks the fox and the fox asks for one small favor in return. The fox stands on the shoulders of the girl and picks the grapes. At the bottom of the page, the words “Aesop’s Fables” are printed upside down. The story ends with the lines, “…but this fox is of the very clever kind, so she imagined her story differently and the grapes tasted ever so sweet.”
Since Pamela Zagarenski’s artwork is so imaginative and full of symbols and lovely images, I thought it would be fun to bring an art project to our multi-age Family Literacy Parties, this month that gives children an opportunity to try their hand at this style of painting. We are using nontoxic, washable children’s metallic paint in gold and silver as our base. The painters will use a new (clean!) sponge to blot on the base coat of gold or silver. Then they will use vegetables, and small paper cups, in an inventive way–to stamp on shapes and use as brushes. In the two pictures below carrots, okra, ornamental eggplant (also call “pumpkins on a stick”) were used. You can also use whole tangerines, bell peppers or the bottom on the mini pumpkins that are in season now. Go wild cleaning out your fridge! Here are two samples: