NOTE: THIS TITLE HAS A MARCH 1 RELEASE DATE
On a yellow morning
when the sun is new
and shadows long
a puppy comes to live at Beth’s house.
For Beth, it is too soon.
Beth, a small girl, is shadowed by sadness. The cause of her sadness is not identified in the text, but is made clear in the illustrations. Despite her father’s attempts to reach her, Beth remains separate and sad, unable to participate in or enjoy life. Dad brings home a puppy, hoping to reach Beth, but although she watches his antics, she cannot join Patches in his games. Dad watches too, and cares for them both. Only when it may be too late, is Beth able to break from her shadowed world. The text is poetry, spare and evocative: ‘Afternoon sunshine
Seeping through shutters
Makes Patches warm
Makes Beth weep.’
Illustrations are soft watercolour a mixture of full colour openings and vignettes, reminiscent of Freya Blackwood’s work. Endpapers show Patches at puppy-play.
‘Chasing Shadows’ is a beautiful picture book combining poetic text with warm empathetic illustrations. The main character Beth is present in every illustration but it’s clear she is not present emotionally. She has withdrawn into herself in crippling sadness and depression. Not even the exuberant and comic actions of a new puppy can cut through. This is clearly more than normal sadness. Beth has disconnected from her world. Slowly, time and the puppy’s relentless joyfulness begin to distract although not free her. Only in crisis, does Beth find the courage to help Patches and in doing so, herself. Themes include loss, sadness, depression, love and happiness. ‘Chasing Shadows’ is a gentle book exploring big issues. Recommended for young readers, those experiencing loss and depression, and anyone who understands the power of dogs to help us heal ourselves.
Chasing Shadows, Corinne Fenton ill Hannah Sommerville Ford Street Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925000153
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author and bookseller