I have been looking at wordless picture books lately and there is a surprising lack of them available. They can be harder to read than a conventional book with words, this is certainly the case with Shadow. I’m fascinated by the ability of the illustrators to tell their stories without words. Journey by Aaron Becker is an example of a wordless picture book which has been a standout success lately, I’m eagerly awaiting his follow book of the trilogy, Quest.
Shadow is a book by South Korean artist Suzy Lee. It is about a girl who is down in her basement and her imagination comes alive as she sees the shadows on the ground in front of her. The beauty of the book lies in it’s ability to just use three colours-yellow, black and white. I think this adds to the book as shape is really important in the story as the shadows are cast and colours often distract from the narrative in picturebooks. Her use of line and body language in particular carries the story. Without words the artist must work extra hard for the story to make sense and flow. Lee achieves this to great effect.
The book itself is unconventional, it is a long rectangle and it is difficult to read conventionally as one must open each page as a double spread and figure out the narrative. One page has what is happening in reality and the facing page shows the shadow cast and the imagination of the girls mind. She portrays a jungle scene by using ladders, chairs, vacuums and boots.
The lines between reality and imagination become blurred quickly as the two worlds merge. Children love this book but it sometimes requires help to explain how to use the book before they begin to read. Children love to figure out what items cast certain shadows in the book and they end up trying to cast different shaped shadows themselves whilst reading the book!
Shadow is a book like no other, it’s unique and simplistic like Suzy Lee’s other books which follow a similar theme, Wave and Mirror. It could also be a really cool coffee table book for adults as it is easy to pick up and look at a random page to try and figure out whats going on exactly in the narrative.