Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow (Michelle Cuevas)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow, written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Sydney Smith, a fantastic fairy tale about having the courage to explore the world outside one’s comfort zone.

Smoot is a precocious little shadow with a curious nature and a yearning to be free. The boy he is attached to is nice enough, but lives a dull, colorless life – he never jumps or leaps or plays or even colors outside the lines. Wishing for a day when he could have a life of his own, Smoot is surprised to hear a POP! – and to find he is no longer attached to his boy! At last, Smoot can dance, sing, ride the carousel, jump rope, and go wherever his dreams take him. His carefree attitude inspires the other shadows around him, and suddenly they are making their own dreams a reality: a cricket’s and grasshopper’s shadows strike up a band, a frog’s shadow becomes a handsome prince, and a tiny rock makes himself into a towering castle. Knowing that the shadows’ freedoms could become problematic if unchecked, Smoot devises clever solutions to help them realize their dreams, then decides to return to his boy – only to find his old friend has been following him since he left, and has been inspired by his boldness to embrace the color in his life.

This was such a wonderful little fable! Smoot is a charmingly earnest protagonist, both a dreamer and a realist who knows the proper balance of both. He and the other shadows serve as a great metaphor for how we should let our dreams influence us: allowing them to drive us out of complacency, but not letting them get too carried away. The illustrations are magical, and create an imaginative world that feels both familiar and fanciful. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. A lovely tale for dreamers of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Hortense And The Shadow (Natalia & Lauren O’Hara)

Hello friends! Our book today is Hortense And The Shadow by Natalia & Lauren O’Hara, a dark and strange yet wonderfully exciting fairytale.

Hortense is a quiet young girl who seemingly lives alone, in a large house in the middle of the silent snowy woods. Hortense is kind and brave, but there is one thing that never fails to leave her irritated: her shadow. It’s always following her and always copying what she does. At dusk, it becomes long and crooked. It makes her sad, angry even. Hortense hates her shadow, and when it trips her up going down the garden stair, she thinks that shadow must hate her too. One day, she is able to cut off the shadow with a window, leaving it alone outside while she finally feels free without it. But just as she is celebrating her victory, she is set upon by a dangerous gang of bandits. Hortense is terrified, but she will find a rather unexpected protector in the very shadow she once scorned.

An odd and eerie fable with a whimsical, uplifting ending! This one was definitely different: the story is set up like a folk tale, using language that is filled with simile and quirk yet flows beautifully. The art is somehow both dark yet colorful, using a palette of dark blues, muted yellows and, of course, shadowy blacks and grays that creates an environment and characters that range from delicately sweet to uncomfortably sinister. The details are especially captivating: enjoy spotting the bandits deftly hidden in the trees and gardens as they survey Hortense and her home. The length was good, and JJ seemed fascinated by the art. I’m not quite sure I understood the message, if there was one – but I have to admit, this one was so unique and interesting that we couldn’t help but enjoy it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Black Rabbit (Philippa Leathers)

Hello, friends! Today, we read The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers, a story about a bunny who faces an unusual foe.

White Rabbit is being followed! It seems that no matter where he turns, a great black bunny appears right behind him! It follows him across the fields and through the river, always just behind. Finally, when he retreats into the deep, dark woods (where no light shines), the shadowy figure no longer appears. However, White rabbit is faced with a new threat: a terrifying wolf! How will he escape? 

This is sort of an odd book, but I liked it. The Black Rabbit is (and this is made quite obvious) White Rabbit’s shadow, which reappears when the wolf chases him out of the dark forest, scaring the wolf away. However, by the end of the book, Rabbit never seems to realize this: he skips off “hand-in-hand” with the Black Rabbit, now seeing the entity as his friend and protector. On the face of it, it seems like a simple, if offbeat, story in which little readers can laugh at the rabbit’s nervousness, plus a nice happy ending to leave things on a high note. The art is adorable and just the right side of creepy when the story calls for it, and it makes the characters very endearing. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it okay. I think where I got stuck was the metaphor, if there is meant to be one. Does the shadow represent Rabbit’s inner strength, something he runs from until he needs it most, and it saves him? Is it about not judging based on appearance? Maybe I read to much into it, but it feels like there’s supposed to be a lesson, and I didn’t quite pick it up. Regardless, it was a fun read, and we’re calling it Baby Bookworm approved!