Friday, October 20, 2017

ReaditDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 20th October 2017 - "Hortense and the Shadow" by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara (Picture Puffin)

Our second Picture Book of the Week this week serves us durned right for bemoaning the lack of atmospheric and dark children's books...
Here is a delicious slice of crisp, wintry and gloriously immersive storytelling that feels like those awesome dark children's stories you used to read when you were a kid (well, if you're my age, which I'm assuming one or two of you may be).

Back in the 1970s and well into the 80s, we were lucky enough to see a far more experimental and some might say risky approach to children's publishing, where darker stories were the mainstay, and the happy go lucky cutesy-pie animal character books were less of a concern.

With the rise and rise of picture books as a well established and recognised artistic genre all of their own, we're seeing more and more authors and illustrators asking themselves an important question...

"What if I put this out there, what if a publisher liked it and what if the great book-buying public also liked it?"

Budding authors are always told to write the book they would want to read themselves, and it feels like Natalia and Lauren O'Hara have done just that with the magical "Hortense and the Shadow".

Written in the sort of prose that makes each and every hair on the back of your neck stand on end, it's the story of a young girl called Hortense, and her obsession with an ever-present 'pest' as she sees it, her own shadow.

Try as she might, Hortense never seems to be able to shake off her constant companion and becomes sad. But she has a plan, a sneaky trick to play on her Shadow to separate them once and for all.

Her shadow, however, has other ideas - and this is where the book sends icy fingers down our spines as the story envelopes itself in a delicious wintry darkness.  Hortense realises her folly far too late as bandits close in, eyeing up Hortense's lovely woodland home with avaricious eyes. This time, there'll be no one to save her. Or will there? 

"Hortense and the Shadow" firmly belongs in that hallowed group of children's picture books that dance on the twilight side of the fence, where nothing is quite as it seems, where even the most ordinary and everyday seems somehow darkly magical, mysterious, forbidding yet enticing. 

Exquisite in every way. You owe it to yourself to pick up this book.

Charlotte's best bit: The moment when Hortense's plan to ditch her shadow comes to fruition. But who is that watching from the woods...?

Daddy's favourite bit: Beautiful, dark, wholly original and utterly amazing. Natalia and Lauren are destined for great things, no question about it if this is the standard of their work to come. 

"Hortense and the Shadow" by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara is out now, published by Picture Puffin (Kindly sent for review)

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