Book review: Chasing Shadows by Corinne Fenton
Posted by Lisa Hill on March 16, 2014
Chasing Shadows, by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Hannah Sommerville, is a wise and gentle book about grief. Beth has lost her mother, an event signalled by photos of a family of three, which is now just a family of two, Beth and her father. At Christmas, signalled only by the wreath on the front door, Dad brings home a dear little puppy called Patches, but it’s too soon for Beth. What she feels is more than grief, it is depression, and she has lost interest in everything, clinging to her mother’s beads and lying awake at night watching the shadows.
Patches, as puppies do, frolics, explores, makes a muddy mess and seems to comfort dad as he walks alone outside. The weather changes, showing the passage of months, and it is not until the weather warms again and Patches is bitten by a snake that Beth is able to care about him at all. She spends an anxious night beside him after the vet has been, but in the morning wakes to his love as he clambers up on to the couch to share a cuddle. Beth weeps, but her tears turn to smiles and laughter, and the last page is a triumphant celebration of her father’s relief as he works in the garden beside the child and the dog at play.
Corinne Fenton is an award-winning author, but her partnership with first-time illustrator Hannah Somerville is what makes this book so powerful. Fenton’s text is transformed by the images: little Beth’s empty face contrasted with the exuberant pup; father’s own grief exacerbated by his anxiety about his child; the precious moment when Beth sees beyond her own needs and shrieks for help to dad.
Many of the books that attempt to express grief and depression in young children are, to my mind, sentimental and too quick to imply a swift resolution. Chasing Shadows makes no pretence about that: it shows that incapacitating grief can linger for a very long time.
Author: Corinne Fenton
Illustrator: Hannah Somerville
Title: Chasing Shadows
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing, 2014
Source: Review copy courtesy of Ford St Publishing.
This entry was posted on March 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm and is filed under Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books, School Library stuff. Tagged: Chasing Shadows, Corinne Fenton, Hannah Somerville. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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