Marvelous New Picture Books: The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski

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The Whisper by two-time Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski is a book that explores the joy and creativity of stories! Zagarenski writes with the elegance of a masterful storyteller. The sentences flow together, and this picture book is definitely appropriate for both young and older elementary grades.  the whisper title

A little girl borrows a book from her teacher, excited to read it the moment she gets home. But when she races back to her home, the words literally fly out of the page!

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The words fly out of the book and into the net of a familiar fox…

Devastated to find no words in the book by the time she gets to read, the little girl suddenly hears a whisper. The whisper encourages her to make up her own stories based on the illustrations, reminding her there is no wrong in imagining a new beginning, middle and end:

“Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed.
You can imagine the words.
You can imagine the stories.
Start with a few simple words and imagine form there.
Remember: beginnings, middles, and ends of
Stories can always be changed and imagined differently.
There are never any rules, rights, or wrongs in imagining—
imagining just is.”

Each two-page spread that follows is an incredible picture of dynamic action, filled with rich colors and intricate patterns. This book is pure eye candy.
For each spread, our lovely protagonist begins to narrate her own story, but Zagarenski purposefully leaves it hanging so that her readers can continue the story using their own imagination. That being said, this book is appropriate for all ages and is welcoming — especially for struggling readers who become easily frustrated. This book is a great way to reinforce the love and joys of reading and stories!

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One of my favorite spreads found in the book. Do you see the fox hiding behind the trees?

This book also is a great resource to introduce more advanced literary devices for children. In each spread, the fox (from Aesop’s Fox and the Grapes) and a swarm of bees are hiding somewhere within the scenery. Additionally, as the girl gets deeper and deeper into the book, she receives a floating crown on her head– the same crown found on the book’s cover. Using these illustrations as examples, teachers may begin to discuss the aspects of symbolism, and how it can give a richer level of meaning to a story. (ie. The crown represents imagination and empowerment that comes through creativity and storytelling.) Teachers can also discuss the idea of allusion, especially with Aesop’s Fox interacting so heavily with the main plot of the story.

The Whisper is also the first picture book that I have seen use its end pages to provide an epilogue. Even though the girl’s story is finished, Zagarenski gives a snippet of the Fox’s ending:

the whisper 3

The fox also imagined her story differently + finally got her grapes!

In all, this book possesses a creative storyline that is accompanied by outstanding illustrations. The different format of the book is definitely worth looking into, and I think kids will love how unique it is! The girl’s love for stories and reading is almost infectious– and many children will embrace the freedom and empowerment this book gives them in constructing their own rules for storytelling.

By Sunny Kim

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