terça-feira, 21 de novembro de 2017

Review: Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O'Hara and Lauren O'Hara

Hortense and the Shadow 
by Natalia O'Hara and Lauren O'Hara
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Released on: 
A haunting, original fairy tale from two dazzling debut picture book talents, in the spirit of Neil Gaiman and Carson Ellis. 
Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad--even angry--that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow, and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

This stunningly illustrated story stirs the soul with its compelling, subtle exploration of self-esteem, self-identity, and finding inner strength.

Rating: 4/5 stars

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Natalia and Lauren O'Hara are two sisters who love fairy tales and that sent out to write their own. Hortense is their first picture book and if it is a taste of what's to come then we are in for a treat.
Hortense's story is everything a fairy tale should be; here we have a little girl who lives in the woods and gets along with every animal and plant. She is not afraid of wolves or even of the darkness of the night, what Hortense fears the most is her shadow.
No matter what she does or where she tries to hide Hortense's shadow follows her everywhere and maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing as our heroine is set to find out.
This is not so much a story about facing your fears as it is a story of acceptance. Hortense hates her shadow because "Everywhere she went, it went. Everything she did, it did. And every time night fell it grew, tall and dark and crooked.". The Shadow is part of Hortense, even if she doesn't want to admit it and it's important that our heroine understands that and learns to live with her. And the story gets the point across in a delicate and beautiful manner. 
I have to admit that I did congratulate the publisher on their choice for the illustration. Lately when checking the children section I see more and more illustration that seem like a variation of Quentin Blake's and  Tony Ross's (that already look a lot like Quentin Blake's in my opinion!) which only blends the books into one big collection. And makes Christmas shopping a nightmare for adults who don't know exactly what their children want to read.
Hortense's illustrations are different. They are whimsical, they certainly do not look like Quentin Blake (please be assure I have nothing against his illustrations!), which automatically sets this book apart. These are a different type of drawing and the colour pallet used is soft and snowy, just like the woods where our heroine lives.
For me it's important to fall in love with the pictures in a picture book as they set the mood for the story. And these illustrations achieve just that!
Beautifully and whimsicaly illustrated this is a cute and short fairy tale with a very important message.