Lantana Publishing

Shadow

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Shadow Lucy Christopher, illustrated by Anastasia Suvorova

Lantana ISBN: 978-1911373834

Guest Post: An interview with the author and illustrator of 'The Pirate Tree'

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We were delighted when some of our JAB Jrs were offered the chance to ask the author/ illustrator team who created ‘The Pirate Tree’ some questions about their wonderful book. Children from across KS2 worked together to decide what to ask. They loved the story and were very excited. Here are their questions and the answers they received.

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First, Brigita Orel, author of the story:

How long did it take you to write the story?

It took me about two years from the first draft to the final version. I completed the first draft in about a week, but then I revised it several times before it got accepted for publication. And then I revised it again with the help of my editor.

What gave you the idea?

I got the idea from watching my sons play with their friends. It fascinated me how shared interest brought children together, regardless of their origin, gender, looks etc.

Where did you get the names for the characters? Are they people you really know?

The name Sam was actually suggested by my editor. And for Agu – I wanted him to have a strong, beautiful name that mirrors his courage. No, Sam and Agu only live on the pages of my book.

Who do you like the best?

It's hard to choose but I think I like Agu best because even though no one wants to play with him and he's lonely and an outsider he doesn't give up. It takes courage to make new friends, especially in a new place.

Have you ever been to Nigeria? Is it your favourite country?

Unfortunately, I have never been to Nigeria. But I saw so many beautiful photos of the country when I researched it for this book that I would love to visit it one day.

Why did you choose a tree to be the imaginary boat?

When I was little, I loved to climb up the apple tree in our garden. I would pretend it was all sorts of things – a skyscraper, a ship, a plane. I could change the tree into anything I wanted just with my imagination. I wanted to recreate that in The Pirate Tree.

How many books have you written? Do you have plans for a new one?

This is my first published book, but I'm working on several more. It just takes time to write them, polish them and then find a publisher.

What was your favourite book when you were little?

The most memorable one was certainly ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. As I grew older, I loved the Famous Five series.

What is your favourite snack to eat when writing?

It depends on the day, but I eat A LOT of snacks when I write. Sometimes it's fruit, sometimes chocolate, chips or anything else I find in the pantry – I’m not picky.

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Then, Jennie Poh, the illustrator:

What materials/ techniques were used to make the pictures?

I work in photoshop, so mainly digitally these days! I always try and find interesting textures and try to make my own digital brushes from natural inks and paint marks to create a lesser digital feel.

How did you think of each scene? Did you read the text? Have discussions with the author? Ask children to act it out?

I was very lucky to be given a loose brief here. Lantana (the publisher) gave me a lot of creative freedom. I initially sent the author character sketches and the development which she really loved and then it was full speed after that. I often watch my own children through play which is a great reference when illustrating children playing and interacting!

How long do you spend on each picture?

I try and give myself realistic aims. No more than one spread a day usually, but on a lucky day when everything seems to roll on easily I may end up doing two spreads in full colour.

Why do you only draw your characters from the side?

I think this comes across in this particular book as it is heavily stylised. There are other projects where I did no side profiles at all! This particular artwork was kept very simple, and was about visual shapes and space. The limbs are quite angular, and it didn’t seem right to add a round softer face to go with this.

Have you illustrated lots of books?

I’ve been illustrating for over nine years now, I think I may have lost count on the exact number!

Are you friends with the author? Or have you never met?

You rarely meet an author in person; we have only ever met on email! We do retweet each others post though and are supportive with each persons work.

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A lovely story about making new friends and the power of imagination, ‘The Pirate Tree’ is a beautifully illustrated book. Thank you so much to Brigita and Jennie for answering our questions and to Lantana for making it happen!

The Pirate Tree Brigita Orel, illustrated by Jennie Poh

Lantana ISBN: 978-1911373872

Mira's Curly Hair

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Mira does not like her hair. It’s too curly and can’t be controlled. She wants her hair to be straight and smooth like her mama’s, but no matter what she tries, the curling won’t stop. One day, however, when they go out together, it starts to rain and something wonderful happens…

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There is something about each of us that we would probably change if we could, but this lovely story encourages the reader to accept who they are. The natural beauty of Mira’s curly locks is celebrated in every picture, even when she cannot see it for herself. Her desire to be like her mama is lovely and her discovery that Mama’s hair is actually an abundance of curls like her own is delightful.

‘Mama! Mama! Look at your hair!

It looks beautiful and free, curling everywhere!’

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The illustrations are just wonderful. Bursting with life and vibrant colours, they are full of detail and the warmth between Mira and her mother is captured perfectly. My favourite is the one of Mira and her mother crouching to shelter from the rain, closely followed by the one shown above!

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A wonderful celebration of being yourself, ‘Mira’s Curly Hair’ is perfect for sharing.

Mira’s Curly Hair Maryan al Serkal, illustrated by Rebeca Luciana

Lantana Publishing ISBN: 978- 1911373612

Published April 2019