What is striking about "MY BISON," a picture book by Gaya Wisniewski, is the hauntingly beautiful illustrations. There is a mood created here that extends beyond words on a page. The story spans childhood to old age in the life of a woman who befriends a wild bison.
The reader moves between the comforts of home and hearth to the wilderness and mystery of the outdoors. The bison is both a mythical playmate (who is pictured at times curled up in the girl's bed or sharing a taste of soup) and a mysterious wild animal who lives on the border of the unknown, the unexplored wilderness.
Wisniewski evokes multiple levels of meaning expertly with a quiet elegance. MY BISON would be good for a child (or adult) grieving the loss of a beloved pet. It would also be a lovely story to read at bedtime on a cold winter night. The loving relationship between the girl and her bison -- the tame and the wild -- touches on the cycle of life and how love remains. A timeless storybook to keep and share for generations.
A side note (from a worried mother): The girl's approaching the bison -- getting closer and closer to him, until one day she can approach him -- caused worry in this reader that the story would encourage young children to approach real bison who are not nearly as tame or predictable as the bison in the magical world Wisniewski creates. MY BISON appears to have French publisher. I wonder whether American readers might be more anxious literalists about sitting side-by-side with a bison; perhaps bison are considered more mythical and less like cattle, to a European audience.
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