With reoccurring images of crowns, tigers, teapots and spheres, Pamela Zagarenski’s The Whisper takes readers back to the fantastical world created in her Caldecott Honor-winning books, Sleep Like a Tiger and Red Sings from Treetops.
A red-capped girl who loves stories notices a mysterious book in her classroom. When her teacher lets her borrow this magical book of stories, the girl rushes home to read it. In her eagerness, however, the girl doesn’t notice the words spilling out behind her or the clever fox collecting the words in a net. At first the girl is disappointed when she only finds pictures. Where are the words to make the story? But a whisper on the wind reminds her that imagination can provide the stories, and with no rules to limit her imagination, the story can be different each time.
So begins a distinctive picture book adventure. Intricate mixed-media illustrations with wondrous animals and tiny folk in stylized costumes combine with elements reminiscent of Marc Chagall and Paul Klee. Instead of the text taking a prominent place, the girl reads the book along the bottom and provides prompts to her version of a story. Readers can follow along, alter or ignore the subtle text and make up their own story to the wordless pictures.
Throughout the story, the fox has been observing it all, and when the fox returns the words to the girl’s book, the girl finds she doesn’t need them after all. In a twist and a nod to Aesop, the fox realizes she doesn’t either. Zagarenski’s stunning creation shows imagination at its best.