Hortense and the Shadow

Natalia and Lauren O’Hara. Little, Brown, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-44079-0
This haunting, folk tale–style debut from two sisters combines delicate, wintry images with dark thoughts. Hortense lives in a mansion that looks very much like a Russian Orthodox church, with onion domes, turrets, and ornate furniture. Hortense is “kind and brave,” but she’s locked in conflict with her own shadow. She’s not just irritated by it: “Hortense hated her shadow.” The O’Haras draw Hortense with a spidery black line looking angrily at her shadow on the snow—it’s long, gray, and menacing. In a convulsion of despair, Hortense dashes through a window and slams it behind her, casting her shadow from the house altogether. But when bandits arrive one night, it’s her shadow who saves her. It’s an allegory of reconciliation with the dark emotions human beings inevitably harbor; if Hortense’s shadow is sometimes “dark, fierce, strange, silly, jagged, or blue, well... sometimes Hortense is too,” the story concludes. Some readers may be unsettled by the depth of Hortense’s obsession, made all the spookier by garden tracery and architectural embellishment right out of Rebecca, but children who love eerie stories will be fascinated. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/18/2017
Release date: 11/07/2017
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-241-33019-7
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-14-137402-4
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