BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Shadow Mother by Seán Virgo, illustrated by Javier Serrano Pérez

Shadow MotherConfession: this post appears today only because of the word “Mother” in the title. In the U.S. and many countries around the world, the second Sunday in May is designated “Mother’s Day” [check out this comprehensive chart for a Mother’s Day near you!]. So here’s the warning: if you’re looking for a cuddly feel-good story, this would not be it. But if you’re in the mood for a mythic, albeit bittersweet, work of intense beauty, you won’t be disappointed.

The tale begins with a boy “born by a river where ships came in from every place in the world.” He is drawn to the water, eventually becoming “the master of his own tall ship, sailing the Seven Seas.” Falling in love with a mysterious girl of the waters, he takes her shadow to ensure she can never leave him. He gives up his nautical adventures and returns to the town by river of his childhood to begin family life. Alas, his son grows up “in a silent house” with parents who love him dearly, but who cannot love one another. The attic becomes the young boy’s refuge. There he eventually discovers his father’s old sea chest and the invaluable treasure within … which leads him to his inevitable future.

Canadian-domiciled poetry and prose writer Seán Virgo takes various pieces of the selkie legends (about transforming seal-like creatures of the sea) and weaves a surreal dream of love and longing. As simple as his sentences might seem, readers of all ages will find a multi-layered story within. Virgo’s magnetic words are rendered into hypnotic landscapes by Hans Christian Andersen Award finalist (considered the ‘Nobel of children’s literature’) Javier Serrano Pérez, in which humans, fish, and other fantastic beings overlap and coalesce without boundaries. The effect is exquisite, both tragic and hopeful, with promise of brand new beginnings …

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2014


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