Cloth Lullaby

Why do we fall in love with one book and not another? It’s not all because “it’s well written”, or has “stunning illustrations”, or is “a brilliant new idea”. Sometimes it has to do with where we are in our lives. Like a song that expresses the perfect mood that you’re feeling, a book can resonate on that note as well.

And this is why I’ve selected CLOTH LULLABY, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois,  to post about today. With words by Amy Novesky and pictures by Isabelle Arsenault it is the breathtakingly illustrated biography of textile artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). This book wove in an extra layer that has great resonance for me. I recently lost my mother who was an artist, as was her mother, my grandmother. In going through my mother’s studio, I was overwhelmed by the connection of that creativity. I felt an amazing sense of heredity that this gift of art was passed down from my MomMom, to my mother, to me, and now to my daughter. It has felt like a very tangible, healing, and spiritual thread for me. CLOTH LULLABY builds on that same artistic relationship. Louise’s mother is a tapestry artist and “She taught her (Louise) about the warp and the weft and how to weave.” The author makes many references to ‘webs’ and ‘spiders’ throughout the book and Louise’s mother is compared to a spider—

“a repairer of broken things.”

When Louise’s mother dies, she begins to explore textiles in a new and different way. Building upon the skills that her mother taught her, Louise begins to experiment with fabric and color and creates sculptures and books. She begins to use her talent as an outlet of creative expression and as a way to deal with her grief. She often used the theme of web weaving spiders and became famous for sculpting extremely large spiders which she named, “Mamam”.

Amy Novesky  chose to write this story from the perspective of tying together the real influences of what inspired the artwork of an artist. Louise Bourgeois combined her passion for nature, her love of her mother, and her skill as a tapestry repairer to inspire her creativity. This all touched on a current thought process of mine which is what makes us an artist? Why do we feel the absolute “need” to create? By presenting Louise’s life in the way that Amy Novesky has thoughtfully chosen, she has taken this book beyond a simple biography. And good heavens, Isabelle Arsenault’s artwork is beyond gorgeous! She completes that same unique perspective of the author by drawing unexpected images and laying them seamlessly together with symbolic design elements.

And then there is just the tactile wonderfulness of this book. Beautiful, heavy, matte paper along with a somewhat limited color palette create an old fashioned feel.

And the spine? ClOTH LULLABY has a beautiful dark blue cloth binding— utterly brilliant.

Thank you!


Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. I think someone who can tell a story with many layers is gifted and skilled. I try so hard at achieving this skill.

  2. This book looks amazing! Just put a copy on hold from my library!!!!! Thanks for a great post.

  3. This is truly a wonderful book. The illustrations use meaningful design elements to great effect. So beautiful! The writing is superb too! Thanks for the review, Jennifer!

  4. This looks like an amazing and profound book. My mother was an artist too, so it will be even more special to me. I can’t wait to read it!

  5. What a beautiful book! Let’s hope all of us writers, illustrators, and other creative types live as long as Louise – 99 years! – and keep our wits about us, of course. Can hardly wait to read this!

  6. Wow! this looks and sounds beautiful. Can’t wait to see it. And now I’m off to explore more about Louise Bourgeois. She sounds fascinating!!

  7. What a gorgeous book, and I can see how it would have special resonance for you right now. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mother, Jennifer. How lovely that your artistic gift has been passed from one generation to the next. I love the imagery of the spider and the web–art, too, can be a “repairer of broken things.”

  8. Jennifer–I LOVE this book so much. I fell in love with the cover & ordered a copy right away. Arsenault’s art is stunning, and Novesky’s text is lovely and lyrical. I even like the book’s soft texture. One of my favorite reads last year!

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. I’m glad to hear that you found some comfort in its pages <3

  9. What an interesting book! I love it already! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Wow. I have to check this one out. My mother and sister inspire me every day.

  11. Jennifer,
    I’m definitely putting this book on hold. I feel for you with the loss of your mom. You will always have her in your heart and in your art.

  12. You’ve made me need to feel this book in my hands. Thanks!

  13. Isn’t it wonderful how just the right book falls into our hands at just the right time? Book angels, perhaps?

  14. Isn’t the fact that a book resonates deeply within us part of what makes it a great book? I have a few picture books on my shelf that touch me deeply each time I read them.

    Thanks for introducing us to this lovely book. Off to the library!

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