Friday 11 February 2022

Shadow and the Girl

Shadow and the Girl by Jeanette Stampone, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton (Red Paper Kite) HB RRP $26.99 ISBN 9780648674221

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

From the cover to the end papers, his debut picture book by Australian Stampone is visually stunning. The words too, serve to work in perfect harmony with the illustrations.

The story starts with Shadow who dances happily in the sun until one day ‘a terrible scream echoed behind her.’ The scream issues from a giant girl who towers over Shadow, staring at her ‘with wide, bulging eyes.’ Driven by fear, Shadow flees, pursued by the girl. At first Shadow hides ‘between the patterns on the grass’, but when she emerges, the girl is still hysterical. Eventually – and happily -- there is resolution to the conflict between Shadow and the girl, proving that they are meant to be together after all, and will continue their heart-warming relationship.

This imaginative story of an unlikely friendship is full of action, the girl and shadow moving from left to right on every page. The illustrations begin on the double fly pages at the front of the book – mostly pencil roughs the illustrator has undertaken on the way to finalising her artwork.  At the end of the book are three double page spreads of black and white line drawings -- like a colouring book -- which invite the reader to paint or colour in.

In the internal pages, illustrator Demelsa Haughton uses whimsical and magical imagery as the coloured illustrations fill the ensuing pages. Shadow is shown as a whispery being, launched into the sky above a landscape which seems as though it’s cut out of paper – lots of twisting, gnarly branches, stylised leaves, and flowers with the odd hidden bird and insect. The double-page spreads are all captivating and invite the reader to pour over them. In the spread where the two protagonists confront one another, the girl shouting, ‘Go away!’ and Shadow quivering in the wind, the landscape can be seen through Shadow’s flimsy body. So clever!

This is a beautiful book which will be enjoyed by readers aged four years and old. It is highly recommended.

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