Hortense and the Shadow is the debut picture book from sister-duo Natalia and Lauren O’Hara and an excellent debut it is.
Hortense is a young girl who lives in a house that lies deep within the dark woods. She is filled with sadness all because of her shadow that she absolutely hates. It will just not leave her alone despite her best efforts. She could not hide from it, she could not outrun it, she could not fool it. It was always with her. Until one day Hortense makes her wish come true and she escapes her shadow by literally locking it out of her life. Ridding herself of her shadow makes her feel happy and free. But when faced with bandits in the middle of the night it is her shadow that comes to her rescue and Hortense comes to the realisation that her shadow is part of her and it is a quite beautiful thing.
In the authors note, Natalia and Lauren comment on the fairy-tales, fables and stories that they were told by their Polish grandmother and the influence of these stories shines through in the book as it projects an Eastern European flavour. The illustrations bring alive this fairy-tale, they are evocative and exquisite and are expertly drawn in muted water-colours. The hardback version is produced on beautiful, thick paper that just makes this book feel all the more special.
A little dark and a little creepy with definite Neil Gaiman vibes. This is the perfect book to snuggle up with on a cold winter’s night.
Recommended for 6+.