Virginia Wolf


  • Editor’s Choice, Books For Keep UK
  • Picture Books for Young Feminists, Readings
  • Top 100 Mighty Girl Picture Books
  • 100 Best Canadian kids’ books of all time, Today’s Parent
  • 100 Canadian Books to Read in a Lifetime, and 49th Shelf
  • 12 Contemporary Canadian Picture Books Every Home Should Have, CBC Books
  • HDSB Reads “One Book” Club, 2015
  • The Most Celebrated Children’s Literature of 2013, Huffington Post
  • TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (2013: finalist)
  • Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (2013: finalist)
  • IBBY Canada Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award (2013: winner)
  • Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards (2013: shortlist)
  • White Raven Award, International Youth Library (2013: winner)
  • Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, Canadian Library Association (2013: shortlist)
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) Best of the Year Choice, 2013
  • USBBY Outstanding International Books List, 2013
  • Ontario Library Association, Best Bet (2012: commended)
  • Governor General’s Literary Award, Children’s Literature Illustration (2012: winner)
  • Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 2012
  • The Best Illustrated Children’s Books and Picture Books, Brain Pickings, 2012
  • 15 Books that Mattered 2012, Quill and Quire
  • Readers’ Pick of the Year, Quill and Quire
  • Best of 2012, IndigoKids
  • Best of 2012, Drawn
  • Best of 2012, Times Colonist
  • Indigo Books Heather’s Pick, 2014


“In the literary bounty of books about bad moods and bad days, this one goes deeper than most, poignantly showing literal and metaphorical glimpses of real depression…Knowledge of Virginia Woolf and her painter-sister Vanessa Bell is unnecessary; this works beautifully as a bad-day/bad-mood or animal-transformation tale, while readers who know actual depression will find it handled with tenderly forceful aplomb.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“It’s not often that a writer-illustrator team conceives a second work so much more ambitious and complex than the first (in this case, 2010’s Spork), and rarer still to execute it so well…Vanessa’s act of love is recounted with grace and sensitivity in this remarkable collaboration.”
Publishers Weekly

“It is the delicacy of the mixed-media illustrations (ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache) that tames the feral Virginia and gives real strength to the story. Parents will enjoy sharing this book with their sometimes “wolfish” children.”
School Library Journal (starred review)

Virginia Wolf, an ambitious story about girlish blues, sisterly differences and the healing power of art, will do wonders for Woolf-besotted former English majors. But the story, about Virginia and her sister, Vanessa, who paints a fantastical world called Bloomsberry, will work equally well for children who hardly know the difference between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
The New York Times

“Where are the Wild Things in contemporary picture books? This wise and daringly imagined book is one place to look for them.”
Leonard S. Marcus, The Horn Book Magazine

“I happen to be a huge sucker for this theme in literature and art and music, the arts — very power to heal — to repair or at least soften, that is, those stinging emotional wounds we all carry. When done as well and as poignantly as it’s done in this book, I get a big lump in my throat and start seeking the closest tissue box.”
Julie Danielson, Kirkus Reviews

“With beautiful splashes of colour and witty, uplifting text, the Canadian duo Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault imagine a secret childhood world of the sisters, while delicately exploring the theme of depression, in this exceptional picture book for ages four and upwards.”
The Guardian (Children’s Book of the Week)

“Right in step with Maclear’s elegant, affecting text, Arsenault’s fetching mixed-media illustrations have a sophisticated yet homespun feel, featuring smudgy black silhouettes, expressive hand-lettered text, and plenty of sly visual detail…the book is ultimately a feel-good celebration of the power of the imagination and art to create perfect places in the world when none can be found.”

“The plum for adults is that the sisters are named Virginia and Vanessa, their brother is Thoby, and the sunny kingdom is ‘Bloomsberry,’ thus adding a level of literary and biographical resonance to the tale of sisterly love.”
The Horn Book Magazine

“…a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of depression for an audience too young to understand the disease. It should attract a lot of attention, and dare we say it – an award nom or two?”
Quill and Quire, Spring Preview Highlights 2012

“[F]or any literate adult reading this story aloud to a child, there will be references that add profound layers to what could otherwise be viewed simply as a juvenile picture book. Either way, it is a thoughtful, gentle treatment of depression and mood swings – something to which most of us can relate, whether we’ve heard of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group or not… Montreal artist Isabelle Arsenault’s mixed-media illustrations and hand-lettered text (complete with blocks of oversized capital letters to depict Virginia’s raised voice) are a perfect match for Toronto writer Kyo Maclear’s inspired story. All in all, this is a beautiful, sophisticated and highly recommended volume.”
The Montreal Gazette

“Maclear and Arsenault treat sisterly love, creative imagination and the anxious agonies of depression with an expressive mix of lightness, whimsy and compassion. Arsenault’s hand-lettering and free-form fantasy intensify our sense of the topic’s personal nature. Maclear writes with poetic brevity, both serious and playful.”
Toronto Star

“Maclear’s and Arsenault’s exceptional book is a must-have for all libraries with children’s book collections and is a display-worthy piece.”
CM Magazine

“Cette histoire d’une affection indéfectible entre deux soeurs est belle et touchante.”
La Presse

“So artfully has Maclear rendered the story, which subtly succeeds on many levels — emotionally, metaphorically and pictorially — that even the youngest readers will intuitively understand and identify with both Vanessa’s loving efforts and Virginia’s raging depression.”
The Vancouver Sun

“[T]his book is permeated with the Bloomsbury ethic of friendship and beauty.”
Virginia Woolf Miscellany

“The message is subtle, but it will stay with children. Every child has times of sadness. This book honors those feelings, while offering positive ideas to work through them.”
San Francisco Book Review

Virginia Wolf, by Canada’s Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, is like a beautiful dream, wrapped up and bound by a spine.”
Design Mom

“[E]very now and then, I find a book that strikes me as a worthy successor to the Sendak legacy. This time, it was Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault’s Virginia WolfVirginia Wolf offers girls coping with outsize emotions–including those who may already be diagnosed with mental illness–a way to see that they’re not alone in how they feel. It also shows them that they’re not alone in coping with their emotions. It plants the idea that there are loved ones standing by who care deeply about how they feel and want to help them heal.”
Read Like a Girl

“Some sort of symbiotic magic occurs when Arsenault and Maclear work together, and the product is timeless picture books that appeal to children and adults alike.”
Perogies & Gyoza

“How brilliant is hapa Canadian writer Kyo Maclear‘s testimony of sisterly love between two accomplished women, Virginia Woolf and her older artist sister Vanessa Bell; she even manages to mention their older brother Thoby (Stephen)…Isabelle Arsenault‘s art again provides a perfect pairing with Maclear’s story. Her hand-lettered text alone speaks volumes – from large angry words to hopeful whispers to happy communication. Her watercolors are simply marvelous, transforming a little girl lost in her own darkened mood to the sunshiny sister ready to go out and play.”
Book Dragon, Smithsonian

“The lyrical flow of the text and the breathtaking mixed media illustrations are captivating.”
The Crimson Review

“This isn’t one of those books that’s going to instantly fly off the shelf – it’s a little quirky, a little different. But once a few people discover it, Virginia Wolf will be one of those books that’s passed from person to person and remembered and beloved by a few children. We need those special books in our libraries, as well as the super-popular and super-commercial titles. Squeeze it into your budget and watch children’s faces bloom with delight as they are transported to Bloomsberry.”
Jean Little Library

“Children’s books with grumpy characters getting over their bad moods are familiar territory, but Virginia Wolf (the title is a clue for grown-ups) dips into the realm of actual depression and mental illness in a deft and delicate way.”

“There is so much more to Woolf than the stones in her pockets, and I love that this book celebrates that. She survived her bouts in the doldrums over and over again, and that she finally didn’t in no way undermines the achievement of her life, all 59 years of it.”
Pickle Me This

“This is one of the deepest, most touching picture books that I have ever come across.”
Instantly Interruptible

“A great picture book often leads me to a more intense emotional response than a great novel…[Y]ou don’t come across this kind of book every day, but when you do, you recognize it right away. Virginia Wolf…is one of those rare books.”
Shelf Elf

“Just perfect. 
One of those things that makes a person hopeful – about the continued delight and ingenuity of illustrated books, but in the bigger, larger sense, too.”
The Black Apple (Emily Winfield Martin)

“This book takes a direct look at depression but can also be used for more transient moods of children. The author’s writing is rich and beautiful…This is a book that not only has art as a solution and an escape, but also has art in the writing itself.”
Waking Brain Cells

“This book is full of surprises, all of which readers will adore.”
The Book Bandit

“This book has gotten every little detail just right.”
Firrkids Reviews

To purchase Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, please visit your local independent bookseller, or order online from Kids Can Press.