“The Whisper” by Pamela Zagarenski

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
ISBN-10: 0544416864
ISBN-13: 978-0544416864


“We dig worms” by Kevin McCloskey

I never heard about Toon Books before. Comics for preschool aged children? Wasn’t going that a little bit too far? The more surprised I was when I held “We dig worms” in my hands. What appeared to be a small, paper-bag-brown book turned into a non-fiction-comic-book when turning the first page.


Our daughter loves to dig in sand and mud. Like most children she is fascinated by worms, but never could quite understand these “funny animals”. This is where “We dig worms” starts. It takes children from the first appearance of an earthworm (“they have no eyes and no nose”) to the important part of worms in our ecosystem. Comic strips show kids digging for worms and asking question an average preschool kid would ask: “Eew – their poop is good for the soil?” “They feel cool, they have cold blood!”


The manuscript for this book was painted on recycled paper-bags and the print of “We dig worms” still shows this unique texture.

“We dig worms” is a unique approach on a non-fiction book for kids. It embraces an animal that’s often overlook, although it can be found in our backyard and is doing a lot of important work. Children learn that worms are more than “funny squishy things”, but creatures indeed and have an important part in our world. Definitely a pretty and pretty thorough introduction into biology and commits to all the questions kindergarteners and first graders would ask. A great combination of fun and facts and an unique reading experience!


I didn’t read a comic in ages and was a little lost reading this book aloud – luckily the second last page explains how to read comics with kids. The publisher “TOON Books” is specialized on comic books for children. They motto: “”Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.” TOON Books wants to represent a whole new approach to books for beginning readers. Definitely an interesting approach! Finja was fascinated by this book right away because it was different. I’m not sure if I enjoy reading a comic as much, but maybe it’s just something that you have to get used to. More importantly: “this is the first collection ever designed to offer early readers comics they can read themselves”, it says on TOON book’s homepage.


More information:
“We dig worms”
written and illustrated by Kevin McCloskey
Publisher: TOON Books
ISBN-10: 1935179802
ISBN-13: 978-1935179801