Novesky (Me, Friday) details the creative and passionate life of artist Louise Bourgeois. Arsenault’s mixed-media collages feature textile patterns and spider-web designs, evoking the influence of her family’s work restoring tapestries. The reds and blues common to the artist’s paintings and drawings dominate, accenting moments of melancholy and drama, as when a young Bourgeois threw herself into a river, angry about her father’s frequent absences. When her mother died, Bourgeois turned to making art: “She drew, she painted, she wove. She missed her mother so much, she sculpted giant spiders made of bronze, steel, and marble she named maman.” Poetic and experimental, the text and art capture the delicate, powerful quality of Bourgeois’s work across multiple media, as well as her ideas about order, symmetry, memory, and reparation. Ages 5–7. Author’s agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (Mar.)
**STARRED REVIEW** "With evocative, gorgeous illustrations and an inspirational story of an artist not often covered in children’s literature, this arresting volume is an excellent addition to nonfiction picture book collections, particularly those lacking titles about women artists."
Gr 2 Up—This picture book biography of artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), who was best known for her installation art and sculpture, highlights the roots of her inspiration. Through text and images, the author and illustrator emphasize the aspects of Bourgeois's childhood that influenced her: the river that flowed past her house, the colors of the flowers and plants in the garden, the "web of stars above her," and her nurturing mother, who taught her how to weave and repair tapestries. Novesky makes excellent use of simile ("Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like a wool thread through everything.") and alliteration ("She taught her about the warp and the weft and how to weave."). Bourgeois's mother is also compared to a spider—"a repairer of broken things." As the story progresses, the images of flowers and plants, the cloth, and the water become larger, sometimes taking up most of the page. The perspective also changes, as readers see what Bourgeois saw as a young girl—the beauty of nature, her mother at work, and the tools her mother used—and, finally, her creations: giant spiders and webs, spirals and circular webs, and cloth drawings and books. VERDICT An inventive introduction to the work of a celebrated artist and a useful mentor text for exploring how language and imaginative, varied illustrations can work together to convey an idea.—Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York
This biography of 20th-century French artist Louise Bourgeois explores childhood experiences influencing her work. Growing up beside a river that "wove like a wool thread through everything," Louise observed a "web of stars" from the garden and slept to water's "rhythmic rock and murmur." She learned about form, color, and pattern as well as weaving and making dyes in the family business, which was restoring tapestries. "Useful as a spider" at the family's work, Louise's mother was also her best friend, teaching her to draw missing fragments of fabric like "thread in a spider's web." Studying math in Paris, Louise turned to art following her mother's death, literally reworking the fabric of her life into original paintings, sculptures, drawings, cloth books, and tapestries reflecting the river, garden, weaving, spider, and mother motifs of her childhood. The evocative, hand-lettered text, peppered with quotations in red ink, provides an impressionistic portrait of the memories, colors, sounds, and images propelling Louise's art. These motifs connect the imaginative ink, pencil, pastel, and watercolor illustrations, done in a palette of indigo, red, and gray. Bold, repetitive patterns of stylized flowers, woven crosshatches, spirals, giant spiders, and musical notes form the perfect background for the cloth lullaby Louise weaves for herself. Splendid visual and verbal introduction to little-known artist Louise Bourgeois. (author's note; photos, sources) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)