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Hortense and the Shadow

Hortense and the Shadow
Natalia and Lauren O’Hara
Age 5-7+

Hortense lives in deep in a cold, dark forest. She is unhappy because she hates her shadow, it annoys and frightens her. Eventually she manages to trick her shadow and cut it off. Hortense is happy to be rid of it but somehow still doesn’t feel safe, is she being watched? When she comes across a group of dangerous bandits her shadow comes to her rescue. Hortense realises how much she depends on her shadow, it is an important part of her.

This is an exquisitely written and illustrated story in fairy tale style with themes of fear, interdependency and realisation. It is also a book which will encourage children to think about their own shadows, how they change and how you can create and play with them.


Share the story

Introducing the book
Before starting the story, talk about the striking end papers with black and white forest pictures and title page with mysterious buildings. Where might this place be? What might this story be about?

Read aloud
Read the book aloud pausing to talk about what is happening in the story or the illustrations as you do. Did children notice the bandits hiding in some of the illustrations? Go back and look for them together.

Join in
When you re read the story children could join in with parts eg when Hortense hides her shadow – ‘behind columns, under ottomans and in holes.’ Or her shadow grew worse….and worse and worse.

Tell the story
Using the illustrations as a guide, children could tell the story – it doesn’t matter if some of the wording is different. Perhaps children could try telling the story as if they are Hortense.

Talk about the story

  • Talk about your favourite pages, illustrations or lines eg ‘she was sad as an owl’. Which part of the story stays in your mind most clearly?

  • Is your child puzzled by anything in the story? There may be unfamiliar words (eg ottoman, or what a raven looks like?) find out about these together.

  • Talk about how Hortense feels at the beginning and end of the story.

  • Talk about shadows and how they are made ( see link below for information)


Things to make and do

  • Your child could make a picture of their favourite part of the story.

  • They could write an imaginary letter as if they are Hortense to their shadow to say thank you for saving her or sorry for being ungrateful or unkind. Children could decorate their letter with patterns or pictures from the story.

  • When you are out and about at different times of the day, talk about shadows together and notice how they change according to the time of day, time of year and amount of light.

  • In a big space such as a park or garden play trying to run away from your shadow or jump on each other’s shadows.

  • Have fun making shadow pictures on the wall together with your hands

Find out more

Find out more about the book’s creators 

Find out more about shadows