In the old house, there was nothing to be afraid of. No monsters under the bed. Nothing hiding in the dark. In the new house, Shadow appeared.
With vibes of The Bridge To Terabithia, The Snow Lion, and Skellig, this book was going to win my heart. Superficially dark and scary, it actually sees a little girl work her way through a period of unhappiness in her family. It is not explicitly stated what that is. Others have read this book as a narrative of depression, and how a parent’s illness can affect a child, but I thought the illustrations hinted at grief. Of course, we all bring ourselves to a story, and I am currently grieving the loss of my Mum, but there are pictures on the wall of the house which hint at it being the old family home, and Ma in the story is seen with her head bent over two pictures later on.
Anyway. While this is going on, a little girl is waiting. The house is dark, the world feels dark, and she’s all alone. Except for Shadow.
Is he imaginary? Is he a projection of her feelings? He leads the little girl deeper and deeper away from her ordinary life until she can’t cope anymore. She cries like never before, and suddenly she is able to tell Ma what she is feeling. From then on, the light comes back, and eventually the house is filled with a new life and a new happiness.
Sometimes before the light comes back in, we have to acknowledge the dark.
The illustrations in this story have a beautiful, ethereal quality. The gentle snowy landscapes contrast with the darkness and ensure it isn’t too frightening for the young audience. Somehow it conveys without words that this is about emotions and not about a terrible danger from the outside. At times – like times of grief or depression – it can be difficult to put emotions into words. Shadow puts them into images and promises a lighter, brighter future.
Lucy Christopher is a talented story writer, and her words together with these beautiful illustrations have created something special. The perfect reminder that when darkness strikes, the light can be found by hugging our loved ones.
Thanks to Lantana Publishing for my gifted copy of Shadow. Opinions my own.