7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #513: Featuring Isabelle Arsenault

h1 December 11th, 2016 by jules

“The river’s soil nurtured a garden where Louise and her family grew geraniums, peonies, asparagus, and cherry trees; apples and pears, purple tamarisk,
pink hawthorn, and sweet-smelling honeysuckle.
Along its banks, her father planted poplars.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


I’ve got some spreads today from Amy Novesky’s superb March picture book, Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois (Abrams), illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. This is an exquisite biography of Bourgeois, the French-American artist known for her sculpture and installation art.

The book opens with Louise as a young girl and places a particular emphasis on her close relationship with her mother, who restored tapestries and actively taught young Louise about the repair of fabrics and about “form and color and the various styles of textiles.” Novesky likens Louise’s mother to a spider, quoting Bourgeois who once said about her mother: “Deliberate … patient, soothing … subtle, indispensable … and as useful as an araignée.” The author also uses the river near Louise’s chilhood home as a theme in the book as well: “The river provided flowers and fruit, a lullaby, and a livelihood.”


“And when Louise was twelve years old, she learned the trade, too, drawing in the missing fragments of tapestry. It was often the bottoms of these fabric pictures that got the most wear and were most in need of repair, and so Louise became adept at drawing feet. Drawing was like a thread in a spider’s web.
(Click to enlarge spread)


The college-aged Louise was devastated at the death of her mother, and it was then, Novesky tells us, that she abandoned subjects like math, cosmography, and geometry to study painting, “applying the lessons she’d learned so far to art.” As fans of Bourgeois know, she then went on in her career to paint and weave and sculpt, creating such pieces as this, named Maman. “Her mother was not unlike a spider,” Novesky writes, “a repairer of broken things.”


“Among tapestries neatly stacked like books in a library, Louise’s mother taught her daughter about form and color and the various styles of textiles.
Some bore elaborate patterns; others told stories.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


This eloquent book brings to my mind Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, one of my favorite picture books in recent memory. Both books serve as tributes to two incredible artists, who owed a great deal to the beauty and artistic sensibilities their mothers brought to their lives. And Arsenault’s artwork here is simply gorgeous. Her fluid and graceful lines, rich colors, and thoughtful symbolism give the book a striking emotional resonance.

It’s one of the most beautiful books you’ll see this year.


“With the remaining fabric of her life, Louise wove together a cloth lullaby. She wove the river that raised her — maternal pinks, blues in watery hues. She wove a mother sewing in the sun, a girl falling asleep beneath the stars,
and everything she’d ever loved.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



CLOTH LULLABY: THE WOVEN LIFE OF LOUISE BOURGEOIS. Copyright © 2016 by Amy Novesky. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Isabelle Arsenault and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I’ve been digging all week the various best-of music lists that one sees at this time of year, such as all of NPR’s lists.

2) I’m enjoying Adam Haslett’s Imagine Me Gone.

3) My friend in the spotlight!

4) Katherine Rundell at the New York Times. Thanks to Rachel for pointing this out to me.

5) A new song from Hurray for the Riff Raff.

6) Playing with my friends’ five-year-old last night.

7) Two 2017 picture book F&GS this week that were particularly wonderful.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #513: Featuring Isabelle Arsenault”

  1. Happy Sunday morning to you all!

    This book and the art by Isabelle Arsenault is truly breathtaking. It’s one of those books you can read over and over for the sheer beauty of it. I’m so happy you had a chance to play with a five-year-old Jules. They are so funny.

    My kicks this week:

    1. I got lots of book mail too. Some for this year and a little bit for next year. Children’s literature is the world’s saving grace.
    2. Snow and more snow
    3. Reading to a third grade classroom on my weekly Friday visit
    4. Blooming amaryllis
    5. Making several batches of Flu-Fighter cookies…Yum Yum
    6. Playing catch me if you can with Mulan
    7. Mulan sleeping next to me

    Have a wonderful week everyone.

  2. Isabelle Arsenault’s art work and pallette is stunning. What a story.
    Jules, the EOY music lists are always fun along with getting F&GS.
    Margie, seeing photos of Mulan makes me.smile. What are Flu-Fighter cookies?
    My kicks:
    1. Snow.
    2. Snowdays, 2 of them.
    3. Poetry Exchange package arrived.
    4. Good response to the New Year Poetry Postcard exchange.
    5. Ten Minutes to Bedtime, compiled by Ken Nesbitt arrived for my baby friends.
    6. Lunch with friends.
    7.#haiku for healing
    Have a great week.

  3. Hi Jules! What a beautiful book! I liked the NYT article on your list, too. Reminds me of Mirette on the High Wire.
    Margie, I love watching the paper whites and amaryllis grow.
    Jone, Ten Minutes to Bedtime is one of my favorites!
    My kicks are:
    1. My daughter’s holiday concert with its fake snow at the end
    2. Unlimited online resources to learn simple animation
    3. Snowflake earrings, a gift from an old friend
    4. Deer visiting our yard (eating our bushes)
    5. Miming a game of Uno at the restaurant last night to make the kids laugh when dinner took for-ev-er
    6. The automatic card shuffler I bought for Uno
    7. Time for drawing
    Have a happy week.

  4. Good morning, Imps!

    Hi Isabelle! Great name and lovely flowers. I especially like this bit: “Her mother was not unlike a spider,” Novesky writes, “a repairer of broken things.”

    Jules: Enjoy the music and the stories!

    Margie: Enjoy the company and the environment!

    Jone: Poetry is lovely.

    Dow: Hi to the deet!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Perserverance
    2) Performances
    3) Preparation
    4) Precognition
    5) Proficiency
    6) Peaceful
    7) Patience

  5. Margie: MULAN! I love Mulan already, and we haven’t even met. I’m so happy for you. … And lucky you — to have snow!

    Jone: You too! I hope we get snow this year. … I have never heard of Flu-Fighter cookies.

    Dow: Maybe fake snow is how I need to get my own snow.

    Little Willow: I think this is the first time “precognition” has been in the wonderful puzzles that are your kicks.

    Stay warm, all! I’m glad to hear you all had good weeks, filled with good food, poetry, precognition, puppies, and Uno.

  6. Beautiful illustrations, and what a beautiful book.

    Jules – hooray for 5 year olds and music lists & beautiful essays!

    Margie – yay for snow and playing with Mulan.

    Jone – yay for snow and snow days and lunch with friends.

    Dow – yay for concerts and fake snow and visiting deer.

    LW – all the P’s this week, it puts me in mind of presents!

    Late to kicks this week:
    1) Snow!
    2) Fire in the fireplace.
    3) Indulging in my love of all Christmas movies by watching them while writing reports.
    4) Baking Christmas cookies.
    5) Katherine Rundell’s lovely essay, & her replying to my tweet thanking her for her beautiful writing. Fangirling over here.
    6) Hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream.
    7) Daisy’s new silly trick of trotting back and forth along the back of the sofa and pulling her blankets off of it, which she happily performs at least once a day, whenever she thinks she’s not getting enough attention.
    7.5) Christmas shopping.

    Have a great week imps!

  7. Wow – what a gorgeous book. As my British friends would say – ‘off the charts!’. Having just spent a bunch on picture books, I’m now trying to figure out how to buy this one. How did I miss it? I’m always trolling for picture books about artists.

    Looks like a wonderful week for all of you this past week. I especially love thinking of those of you with snow! And watching Christmas movies – how great!

    My Kicks:
    1-6 (seriously!) read The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
    7. had tons of fun at a workshop I gave this morning on using picture books to inspire children and families to social action

    Have a beautiful week.

  8. Rachel: Rundell responded? How cool! … What’s your very favorite holiday film?

    Allison: I want to hear you give one of those workshops one day.

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