7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #557:
Featuring Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

h1 October 22nd, 2017 by jules


Today, I’ve an original, modern fairy tale for you, dear Imps. I’m featuring a story the creators, sisters Natalia and Lauren O’Hara, describe as “a dark fairy tale, inspired by the stories our Polish grandma told on snowy nights.” Hortense and the Shadow (Little, Brown) will be on shelves early next month.

The protagonist of this lyrical, atmospheric tale (which I think would make Florence Parry Heide proud) is a young girl named Hortense (I love this), and she lives “through the dark and wolfish woods” and “the white and silent snow.” Hortense is kind and brave, but she’s also sad and, to be precise about it, quite frustrated — because she would like to be sans shadow. Everywhere she goes, her shadow goes, “tall and dark and crooked,” and she’s weary of it. She even figures that her shadow hates her too. One day, she manages to cleave her shadow via slamming down the sash of a window. The shadow puts up a fight but eventually wanders off in the dusk.



Later, thinking she’s safe, Hortense is accosted by bandits, but her shadow appears to save the day. I won’t ruin the surprise of how for you (though there are hints in the art below), but it’s pretty flippin’ cool.

Natalia and Lauren live in northern England. The book actually came with a note from the two of them—not a personal note to me, mind you, but one the publisher distributed with review copies—that I love. It explains more about how the two sisters knew they wanted to grow up to write (Natalia) and illustrate (Lauren) stories — and each other’s stories, to be exact. I’ve linked to the letter here. “What if Hortense died, and became the shadow?” made me laugh out loud. I love their mother already.


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


Lauren’s illustrations, featuring dark, spectral, snowy landscapes (perfect for a Winter read), are lush and delicate, and observant readers will spot the bandits early in the story. It’s a promising debut. I hope we see more from the sisters, and maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll see further stories about Hortense.

Here are some more spreads, since the beautiful art says much more than I can. …


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“‘Oh, shadow,’ said Hortense. ‘I saw things all wrong.
In the dark you were long to make me taller. …'”(Click to enlarge spread)


HORTENSE AND THE SHADOW. Copyright © 2017 Natalia O’Hara and Lauren O’Hara. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Bike rides on beautiful days.

2) The laughs and looks of utter delight I got at Parnassus story time yesterday when I read Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf, the Mouse, & the Duck.

3) Plus, a child at story time requested Where the Wild Things Are.

4) My daughters’ friends.

5) This from Margaret Renkl (who lives here in Nashville!).

6) A Ghost Story. (I saw it two weeks ago, but it’s a movie that has lingered in my brain.)

7) Subbing in my daughters’ school library.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #557:
Featuring Natalia and Lauren O’Hara”

  1. Good morning Jules and 7 imps!

    I read the F & G of this earlier but you have described it beautifully Jules. I hope to see more work by these sisters too. I’ll bet the finished book is even more stunning.
    Aren’t story times the best especially when your listeners are fully engaged in the books.

    My kicks this week:
    1. Speaking of story times, when I read Dan Santat’s After The Fall this week, an entire class gasped at a specially revealing page. It was a perfect moment.
    2. Rain–we waited and waited and we finally have rain in October. This is one of the driest summers I can remember.
    3. Sunny clear days with leaves turning and cooler air at night.
    4. The laughter of children
    5. Finishing The Wonderling a debut MG novel by Mira Bartok. It’s simply lovely.
    6. Halloween decorations
    7. Playing fetch with Mulan; she’s so funny

    Have a super week everyone.

  2. Oh wow, this book looks fabulous. Atmospheric is a great word.
    Jules, come sub for me. Ghost Story looks good.
    Margie, there’s nothing better that the gasp of unsuspecting listeners at the approrpiate moment.
    My kicks:
    1. Seeing my youngest grandgirls.
    2. Fifth graders.
    3. Fall colors.
    4. Delight.
    5. Starting a “You’ve Been Booed” project at school with staff. Hope it catches on.
    6. Reading.
    7. PD with other teacher librarians.
    Have a great week.

  3. Good morning, Imps and shadows!

    Hello, Natalia and Lauren! How wonderful, to be able to work so amicably with your sister. That letter is fantastic – Thanks for including it, Jules!

    A line of lyrics about shadows, from the song Mirrorball by Elbow:

    “And dawn gives me a shadow I know to be taller”

    Margie, Jules: Active, invested listeners are the best!

    Jone: Hope the little ghouls have fun!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Writing
    2) Revising
    3) Being authentic
    4) Shiny
    5) New music
    6) Old music
    7) Entertainment

  4. This book had me hooked from the opening “Through the dark and wolfish woods” such gorgeous imagery, and such beautiful illustrations.

    Jules – what a fun story time, and hurray for bike rides on beautiful days.

    Margie – Halloween decorations, cooler weather and fetch with Mulan sounds like a great week.

    Jone – fall colors, grandgirls and delight all sound wonderful.

    LW – Love love love your “shiny” kick.

    My quick kicks:
    1) Finished Season 5 of The Americans. Woah.
    2) Staying in when its pouring rain, cold and gloomy outdoors.
    3) Daisy meeting a friend and being her exuberant, happy, welcoming self. All tail-wags and dog kisses.
    4) Rough work week, but trying to welcome the challenges.
    5) Getting tow work with smart, compassionate and creative people.
    6) Sweater weather.
    7) Mailing my niece’s birthday present. (No books this time, but hopefully lots of fun surprises she will like.)
    7.5) Halo Top ice cream.

    Have a great week Imps!

  5. I am in love with this book already! The story and the illustrations are exactly the kind of picture book I love to come upon and read again and again. I can’t wait for next month!

    My kicks from the past week, (which has had a lot of wrong kind of kicks),
    1) Yellow Time leaves
    2) Visiting a friend’s art studio
    3) See “Speechless”- incredible theatre
    4) Buying crazy shaped pears at the market
    5) Painting crazy shaped pears in the studio
    6) Writing a poem
    7) Reading a poem (or three)

  6. Here I am! I had my book club last night, so I was behind on reading kicks.

    Margie, I wanted to read AFTER THE FALL at story time, but I couldn’t find a copy in the store. Boo. Hugs to Mulan. Glad you had a good week!

    Jone: How does “You’ve Been Booed” work?

    Little Willow: MIRRORBALL! Guy Garvey is particularly good at love songs, isn’t he?

    Rachel: Hope this week at work is a little less rough. And sweater weather: Hear! Hear!

    Lauren: Hope this week is better for you too, but I’m glad you could find the kicks in this past one. You know I love Yellow Time and also love the Yellow Time leaves!

    Have a good week, my friends!

  7. Loved this book! Great way to get in touch with our dark side and embrace it, that’s a wonderful thing to teach our kids.
    Have a great week everyone =)

  8. Rachel: I love shiny objects. Hi pup! Awww. 🙂 Sending you good thoughts for a better week.

    Jules: Their lyrics are grand, and their orchestrations are SUPERB. The strings in One Day Like This make my heart soar. I hope life grants you an hour of time so you can listen to that concert if you haven’t already! Though it’s a video, it simply cycles through the same series of photos, so you can truly, simply listen while you’re doing other tasks. 🙂

    Margie: Tell Mulan I finally saw the animated film which bears her name!

    Hi Silvi!

    Lauren: Yay for art and creations.

  9. Oh my gosh, this art!! I’ve never seen anything like it. How grand! And I love when sisters make books together. Reminds me of my favorite illustrators, the Grahame Johnstone sisters of the 60s-70sd.

  10. […] Julie Davidson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at her acclaimed blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books. The above blog was posted at 7-Imp on October 22, 2017. […]

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