Kid Lit Review of “Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois” by Amy Novesky

This biography introduces kids to the artist Louise Bourgeois, who was born in Paris, France, although as an adult she lived in New York City, where she died in 2010 at the age of 98.

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Louise’s family restored tapestries, and when Louise was twelve, she learned the trade as well:

“…Louise’s mother taught her daughter about form and color and the various styles of textiles. Some bore elaborate patterns; others told stories.”

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Louise considered her mother to be her best friend, writing of her later that she was “deliberate…patient, soothing…subtle, indispensable…”

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When Louise’s mother died, Louise turned to painting, sculpture, and weaving, applying what she knew to art:

“With the remaining fabric of her life, Louise wove together a cloth lullaby.”

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An Author’s Note follows the story, filling in some details of Louise Bourgeois’s life. The author relates that the artist had a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art when she was 71, “which finally secured her place as one of the most accomplished artists of our time.”

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Bourgeois specialized in spiders, but thankfully for arachnophobes, there are few to be seen in this book. (Louise Bourgeois was in fact nicknamed “Spiderwoman” because of her large-scale spider sculptures.) Isabelle Arsenault, the very talented illustrator, instead highlights the role of fabrics and patterns in the life of Louise Bourgeois, using ink, pencil, pastel, watercolor, and photoshop to create mixed-media collages. Bright reds and deep blues dominate the palette.

Evaluation: This book has a lot of interesting information on weaving and the source of colors for dyes, and explains why Louise began to make sculptures, and especially, spiders.

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I thought the narrative, while informative about aspects of Louise’s art, didn’t really say much about her life, which was pretty interesting, if you read the entry in Wikipedia. I especially liked this bit:

“Bourgeois aligned herself with activists and became a member of the Fight Censorship Group, a feminist anti-censorship collective founded by fellow artist Anita Steckel. In the 1970s, the group defended the use of sexual imagery in artwork. Steckel argued, ‘If the erect penis is not wholesome enough to go into museums, it should not be considered wholesome enough to go into women.’”

You don’t really get a sense of Louise as an avant-garde force in the art world from this book. But the amazing artwork by illustrator Arsenault is so creative, nuanced, and evocative, that it is worth perusing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams, 2016

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One Response to Kid Lit Review of “Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois” by Amy Novesky

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    The book looks gorgeous! It’s too bad it doesn’t include more about Bourgeois because it sounds like she was a spitfire. I looked up some of her spider sculptures – they’re not for me.

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