Lisa Doucet Reviews Holly Carr’s Light in the Forest
Light in the Forest
Nova Scotian artist Holly Carr’s stunning new picture book begins with jet black pages andglowing amber eyes peering ominously off the page. Then, one by one, Carr introduces the animals of the forest.
At first, each creature is howling or lurking or screeching, and the accompanying illustration is dark and eerie and sombre, showing a close-up of that particular beast looking sinister and fearsome. Yet, the narrator still tells readers in bold white letters: “Do not be afraid.”
Sure enough, each turn of the page reveals the same menacing-looking animal from the previous page but now depicted in a glorious, light-infused woodland setting looking serene and amiable, cradling their young or sleeping peacefully amidst the foliage. Alongside each of these lush and luminous illustrations, the words “I am not afraid” boldly, joyfully leap off the page, inviting young readers to chant this empowering refrain themselves.
Created in conjunction with a multimedia stage production and an interactive installation of her world-renowned silk paintings, this book magnificently captures both Carr’s visually arresting artwork and her simple, powerful message. Her distinctive style brings the forest setting vividly to life with illustrations that are both intricately elegant and utterly fanciful.
With thin black outlines, the loose-lined images are bold, strikingly detailed and lavishlytextured. The dark scenes feature expressive faces that generally dominate the page. The alternating images are bursting with vibrant, sun-dappled and colour-soaked life.
The repeated refrain of “Do not be afraid/I am not afraid” provides a rhythmic, soothing quality as well as reinforcing the idea that when we are overcome by fear, we need to look again, to see things differently, to see beyond the darkness.
Endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division, this is a timely and vital message, a beautiful reminder to readers of all ages that even in times of darkness, there is light and hope, for “you are not alone.”
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young-adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.