Saturday 18 January 2014

Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Hannah Sommerville (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95 (ISBN 9781925000153)
PB RRP $16.95 (ISBN 9781925000146)
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Chasing Shadows is a number of things – soft, beautiful, touching, silent, open, heart wrenching and honest. It’s a picture book worthy of discussion and multiple reads, to truly soak up the meaning, purpose and unspoken pull of its pages.

It’s not a tale easily told, the story of a young girl who could be anyone’s daughter, suffering with a depression so heavy in its weight that all she can see is shadows. It’s a topic often left untouched, too painful or misunderstood to truly  confront. But this book speaks it, almost without saying a word. With her beautiful nuance language, Corinne Fenton weaves more in the silence and the contrast.

The young girl’s father buys her a puppy. Like any parent, he wants to see his child happy again, not lost in the shadows. The puppy is jubilant, playful, frolicking and looking for attention. The young girl gives none, preferring the shadows to the love of a puppy.

As the poetic contrasts move the reader from page to page, as we watch the dog leaping across the pages, we see the girl retreat at first, then watch from a distance and finally we see her slowly start to move out of the shadows, slowly reaching out to both her father and the puppy.

Hannah Sommerville’s illustrations cement the soft complexities of this picture book. Her whimsical and expressive illustrations create as much poetry as Fenton’s words, and her choice of colour palettes are telling and indicative or what is left unspoken. She plays on the shadows so beautifully that the reader cannot be anything but engulfed.

Chasing Shadows is perfect for older picture book readers, but also perfect as an education tool for teachers, librarians, parents and psychologists. The story is so wonderfully told, so soft and delicate in its handling of this complex theme, that it could be an excellent vehicle for important discussions – not just about depression, but emotions and being able to open up to our loved ones. On a simpler side, this could also be a story about the love shared between animals and humans. However you choose to read it, it will be a beautiful journey.  

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