Gaya Wisniewski’s My Bison

h1 June 18th, 2020 by jules

“But before long, it was winter again. I knew the moment he returned. I could feel it.
The earth trembled. My friend was back!”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


I’ve some spreads today from Gaya Wisniewski’s My Bison (Princeton Architectural Press, March 2020). Wisniewski is a Belgian illustrator, now living in France, and this is her first book in English. It was first published in France in 2018.

“The first time I saw him, it was springtime.” A girl in her mother’s arms spots a bison, and daily she returns to the place she first met him. She befriends him, even bringing him food. The bison regularly leaves the forest where they play — “How lonely it was without him,” we read in the gir’s tenderhearted, first-person voice — but returns in the winters.

Each time he returns, their friendship deepens — and in ways that make it clear the girl is letting her imagination run wild. In one illustration, for instance, the bison holds a mug as they sit by a fire indoors. “Sometimes he wouldn’t say anything,” we read. “I loved his silence.” The girl loves him “competely.” In one illustration, she hugs her bison, and it’s as if they have melded into one. (In fact, this is the case in more than one illustration when the two are together.)

Things shift as the girl ages; we now see her as gray-haired, elderly. In one particular spread, the woman reminisces about her mother, now gone. “I missed her so much,” she says, asking the bison if he remembers his own mother. After that, the bison, with touches of gray in his own fur, does not return, but the grieving woman “felt him by my side.” The moving final page indicates that the woman knows the bison will always be with her.

The illustrations — rendered in charcoal (my favorite), ink, and hints of watercolor — are splendid, smudgy moments of memory that leave much to readers’ imaginations. In my favorite spread, the girl recalls playing with a friend in the forest, during one of the times her bison was absent. Only the verso features an illustration (the recto has merely a bit of text), and the gutter cuts the illustration in half, right down its center. We can’t see the other child with whom the girl plays, but we see that they are holding hands. It’s an incomplete memory, as many childhood recollections are — perhaps even incomplete for her, one wonders, in that her bison wasn’t there at the time.

The New York Journal of Books wrote this about the book:

“Sad and beautiful, My Bison is a book to fall in love with, a book to share, a book to help smooth over the sting of loss after investing so much time, energy, and love into something special. It is a wonderful glimpse into the world of uncomfortable or difficult emotions that everyone can appreciate.”

I love that.

How about we let the striking art speak for itself? (Some of these spreads have a black line down the center to represent the book’s gutter.)


“The first time I saw him, it was springtime. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“My bison left one morning. I wished he could have stayed ….”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“And then one winter, my bison didn’t come. I looked for him for a long time.”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)



“That night, I came home with a heavy heart. …”
(Click image above this one to see spread in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

MY BISON. First published in France under the title Mon Bison. Copyright © 2018, Éditions MeMo. English edition © 2020 Princeton Architectural Press. Illustrations reproduced by their permission.

2 comments to “Gaya Wisniewski’s My Bison

  1. I’m so pleased to see this — it’s one of the books i got this week from you, not really knowing what i was taking!

  2. Hope you enjoy it, Mary!

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.