This book tells the story of a little boy who goes butterflies hunting in his garden. The child thinks that his shadow, who follows him, bothers him because it makes the butterflies fly away before he can even use his net. He decides that he has to get rid of his shadow and invents all sorts of traps. After no results, he will decide to go around the world to try to trap it in the ice in the North Pole, to confuse it in detours, even to melt in the desert. It is precisely in the desert that he will encounter a sand fox who explains him how his shadow can be helpful and it is essential to make peace with it. The little boy then realizes that his shadow is part of him, it becomes his best friend and in the end, offers him to catch butterflies together…
In the book, the shadow visualizes the part of ourselves that we don’t recognize, or that we want to ignore for whatever reason… but we can’t really escape from it. We don’t live without a shadow. The message could be that to become our full self, we have to reunite at once what we accept and like about us and be open to our unknown territory. It is essential to reconcile with the part of ourselves that appears at first sight unfamiliar, unknown, sometimes disturbing.
Here is a comment from a psychoanalyst friend :
“Between the lines of this deceptively simple and beautifully illustrated little book lies a profound message: the futility of escaping our darker half. By all means, share it with your children but do read carefully and take heed; if all of us, at every age, embraced the truth within these pages, the world would change before our eyes.”
“Laurence de Rosen and Catherine Arnoux have created the charming, beautifully illustrated story of a boy seeking the impossible: to escape his other, darker half. Aided in his quest by elements of nature, he comes to befriend and find companionship with what he sought to discard. A children’s book with a timely message for all of us.”
When I was illustrating this book, I wanted to make references to a few famous ideas:
- First, you will find references to “the Thinker” by the French sculptor Rodin, which I was inspired by my multiple visits to the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. (where I was living when I wrote this book, and still remains one of my favorite museums!). You can recognize the monumental entrance of the museum.
- Then, you will notice that I refer to “The Little Prince” by St Exupery, and I have to say that, not really even consciously at the beginning, I was inspired by the idea of bringing my character into irrational spaces and experiencing time travel.
- Last, I couldn’t avoid including a sand fox throughout the story, because when I was young and living with my parents in North Africa, my sisters and I welcomed two adorable sand foxes, Isis and Osiris, as pets. They eventually turned out to be wilder animals than expected… but I will always admire their delicate features and color.