Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois

novesky_cloth lullabystar2 Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois
by Amy Novesky; 
illus. by Isabelle Arsenault
Primary    Abrams    40 pp.
5/16    978-1-4197-1881-6    $18.95

Novesky returns to territory in which she shines — picture-book biographies of influential and strong-willed female artists (Georgia in Hawaii; Me, Frida) — with this exquisite portrait of modern artist Louise Bourgeois, who became most famous for her giant sculptures of spiders. Bourgeois also worked with textiles, and it’s at her family’s tapestry-restoration workshop in France, along a river “that wove like a wool thread through everything,” that the book begins. Much focus is on Louise’s close childhood relationship with her mother, who taught her “about form and color and the various styles of textiles. Some bore elaborate patterns; others told 
stories.” While Louise is in college studying mathematics, her mother dies; bereft (“a thread, broken”), Louise turns to art and spends the rest of her life creating works tied to memory that soothe and heal: sculptures of spiders, for instance, because “her mother was not unlike a spider, a repairer of broken things,” and cloth items composed of various fabrics from her life, because “weaving was her way to make things whole.” Novesky sews together the many themes of Bourgeois’s art and life — weaving, restoration, maternity, domesticity, memory — into a spare yet lilting narrative. Arsenault taps into these themes in her illustrations, which combine ink, pencil, pastel, watercolor, and Photoshop to create gorgeous images as stylistically and compositionally varied as the tapestries Louise’s mother wove. An author’s note, which incorporates two photographs of Bourgeois and her spider sculptures, neatly ties up loose ends; quotation sources are included.

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*