Review Blog

Dec 01 2015

Adelaide's Secret World by Elise Hurst

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2015.
(Age: 7-12) Well-known for her picture books The Night Garden and Imagine a City, Elise Hurst brings us this story set in a mysterious city bustling with characters, most of whom are shrouded in dark, moving too quickly to be seen or see what is going on around them. There are animals and humans within the pages, but there is no distinction made between the two; the animals are as humanlike as the humans are. The dark, impressionist style oil paintings are truly stunning. They are rich and provide depth and emotion to the characters within the pages. The melancholy bear and the dancing lion are particularly captivating.
Adelaide, a rabbit, lives in a busy city in a shop that used to be full of people but is now quiet. She lives a lonely life, watching the sun rise and set and looking out for others, who like her dream and dance alone. From a distance she sees Fox, and in the dark, grey streets, it is Adelaide's rich, red coat and the orange fur of Fox that stand out. The story follows her as she overcomes her isolation and reaches out to those around her. When she and the others find their voices, the illustrations become filled with a warm, sunshine glow and we see the characters connecting with each other, as they were not before. These paintings are glorious in their own right, and bring to the story a magical, dreamlike quality. Older children will be able to identify themes of courage, loneliness and isolation and discuss how the colour and style of the artwork contributes to the meaning of the story.
This is a deep and complex story that children of different ages will engage with on different levels. However, for some children, especially younger, the storytelling may be too abstract for it to become a favourite.
Nicole Nelson

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