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Three Shadows: 06/01/09

Published in 2007 as Trois Ombres and translated into English in 2008, Cyril Pedrosa's graphic novel was inspired by the feelings of grief and hopelessness he after the death of a close friends' child. The translation was nominated for a Cybil in the young adult graphic novel category and it won a Reuben in the "comic book" division.

Life is simple on the farm for Joachim and his parents. It's a blissful existence dictated by the seasons and the chores on the farm. But everything changes when the three shadows show up on the hill at the edge of the farm. Rather than face the threat head on, the father and son decide to flee the shadows, leaving behind the grieving and worried mother.

Cyril Pedrosa excels at creating mood and suspense in his artwork. The shadows are at times eerie, threatening, dangerous and scary. He also captures the joy of a family at play. Sometimes though the moods jump to quickly for me. After a few times of being ping ponged between JOY and DREAD I stop caring.

As a mother of two children who has also suffered the loss of two others through miscarriages, I have a personal connection to that feeling of life being simpler before an unexpected and unwanted loss. No one wants a child to die but that's unfortunately part of life. By keeping the cause Joachim's death tied to the will of the three shadows it remains unreal. I kept wondering if the father's fear of the unknown caused that what he feared most: the death of his son. In "protecting" his son he ends up dragging him all across the countryside, onto a ship, through storms and so forth, putting him at unnecessary risks. They both nearly die in the middle of a snow storm and of course ultimately the three shadows get who they came for.

How different would things have been if they had confronted the shadows at the very beginning? Would they have given a reason for his early death? Would he have lived a comfortable few more weeks with the mother and father who loved him instead of being dragged through the unknown? Here's where I have the most trouble with the graphic novel: parents trying to protect their child from the harsh reality of life and death only to make the whole experience scarier and more painful!

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, June, 2, 2009 at 17:33:03

Helen Ginger

I think, though, that real life would mimic the novel (not the shadows, of course). I would do anything to try to save my child.

But I can see how the JOY/DREAD/JOY aspect of the book probably hurt the effect he was going for.

Comment #2: Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 18:43:30


I would also want to do everything possible for either of my children as long as there was hope. Three Shadows crossed the line when it became clear that there was no hope for Joachim. Then the father's actions turn from being protecting to borderline abusive. Death ends up being a welcome escape from the fear and illness and injury the boy is put through as his scared father continues to drag him across the world.

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