How do stories arise? Everyone who loves books knows that our own perceptions is a big part of the story developing in our head. A story would be nothing without the author behind and the reader in front of it.
Some weeks ago we reviewed “Journey”, a picture book without words. Pamela Zagarenski’s is the illustrator behind “Sleep like a tiger“. Her book “The Whisper” goes in a similar direction than “Journey” – and is completely different as well.
The protagonist of “The whisper”, a red hooded girl “who loved stories”, borrows a magical book of stories from her teacher. But as she runs home to finally immerge into this wonderful book, the words blow away… The reader witnesses a fox capturing the words – and meets him again in every following page. When the girl finally has time to open the special book, she’s disappointed. The book seems to be empty except of the curious illustrations. But how can a magical book of stories exist without any words? When hearing a whisper telling her to imagine words and layers she looks closely and starts developing a story on her own. Relentless and curious about what the next page brings she stays up all night looking at the rich illustrations, imagining situations, stories and mysteries. She takes the reader on a magical journey to meet a wizard able to create creatures out of bubbles, an elephant and lion on a long voyage. When reading this book, the opening scenes Zagarenski’s protagonist constructs are just be the start of a very unique, very personal approach. Where are the elephant and the lion travelling? And which part does the fox, which appears in every picture, have?
“The Whisper” at least has an answer to the last question. On her way to school our girl meets the fox, which captured her words the day before. For those who know Aesop’s fables it doesn’t come as a surprise when seeing the illustration of the fox reaching for grapes. But unlike the original from old Greece our fox learned to reimagine a story – just like our girl.
Pamela Zagarenski’s “The Whisper” is not only a picture book for children. It’s a well told and richly illustrated fable about reading, storytelling and the power of imagination. Motivating the reader to look behind the illustrations and telling a story on his own makes “The Whisper” to a highly individual book. Or, as the author puts it: “I love to imagine. And maybe just in the act of imagining, one actually makes the stories real.”
An extraordinary book that will encourage children to imagine and can help adults discovering dreaming again!
More about this book:
Story and illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers