By Lucy Christopher
Illustrated by Anastasia Suvorova
In their old house, her mother told her that there was nothing to be scared of- no monster hiding under beds or in wardrobes. But when they move to a new house, the little girl finds Shadow living under her bed amongst the cobwebs and dust. Although she tells her mother about him, her mother is so distracted that she can’t see him. Left to their own devices eventually, the two wander off to the woods where Shadow leaves her alone to go off and play until it is so dark there are no shadows left. After a very long while, there is a chink of light and her mother appears and take her home. They play together until they know all the dark places in their new house and are no longer scared. This is a strange tale whose pictures lend it a dreamlike quality. We don’t know why the little girl and her mother leave their old house where there is nothing to be afraid of; we just see them bundled up against the cold, standing outside a grey building, their suitcases behind them. Although the two are touching hands, it seem even in the opening spread that the mother is distracted and it is the child reaching for a mother who is not really aware she is there. Neither has a shadow of their own.
The reader never knows whether it is bereavement, separation, grief, depression or something else which has caused her mother to withdraw from life, but the illustrations clearly show her caught up in her own world, oblivious to her daughter. Shadow changes from picture to picture, starting as a small boy and growing to almost wolf-like proportions before they run off to the woods. We know that mother and daughter have found each other again when each has a shadow of their own, the mother, now down at her daughter’s level, reaching her hand to her child. Shadow is left behind in the woods where the little girl has tied her scarf to a tree so that he won’t forget her and she can find him again if she needs to.
The story shows the power of communication - of togetherness- as part of the healing process. Together, mother and daughter overcome the distance that has developed between them, finding once again that dark places are not to be scared of.
Powerful illustrations in greys with accents of red and dark blue perfectly accompany the text, making this very thought provoking story one to come back to again and again.