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Hortense and the Shadow by Natalie O’Hara was sent to me by NetGalley in exchange for my review.


Hortense is a little girl who does not like her shadow, in fact she fears what her shadow represents. She does everything she can to escape it, and one day, rather like Peter Pan, she cuts her shadow off.  Hortense learns very quickly that the darkness is not entirely to be feared, and to be the best she can be, she needs to embrace and not shun her shadow side.

This is a deeply metaphorical picture book, but which can also be read as a slightly spooky fairy story.  It’s beautifully illustrated in a rather Slavic style by Lauren O’Hara. This, and the old fashioned style of writing mean that it sits in the more traditional realms of story telling. It has a very old fashioned vibe, complete with a moral message to suit more contemporary readers.

I confess that the story is not entirely to my taste. I think Levi Pinfold and his book, Black Dog, and Lemony Snicket’s The Dark (illustrated by Jon Klassen) tell the same kind of story, but for me in a more appealing way. This was rather lack lustre in the telling, although it is very, very pretty and I am sure that children will love it. It’s always a bit of a problem having a forty-five year old woman reviewing a book which would be better reviewed by early years children.

In summary, kids will love it. I didn’t. The pictures are fabulous. The wintry pictures would make this a great present for a child’s Christmas story and the fact that it is wintry rather than festive means it will have longevity and appeal.