Once Upon a Fairytale

Once Upon a Fairytale
Natalia and Lauren O’Hara
Macmillan Children’s Books

This is the fourth collaboration between the O’Hara sisters, author Natalia and Lauren, illustrator.
It’s a ‘choose you own fairytale adventure’ that really does put child readers centre stage as they decide the direction in which the story goes at almost every turn of the page.

Things start peacefully enough in fairyland with the land being ruled by a wise, kind Queen; but then comes a messenger to the door of the first character of the reader’s choice with some terrible news. “A villain has put a curse on the realm and done something outrageous: you might choose turning ‘all the babies into pigs’, ‘the mums and dads into rocks’, ‘the Queen and court to birds and bugs’ or ‘our dinners into socks’. Her royal highness needs a hero to set forth, fight and defeat the villain and break the curse.
Now’s the time for whichever character the reader selected – maybe a friendly gingerbread man, a kindly farm girl or a jolly woodcutter’s son – to sally forth clad in a scarlet cloak.

Thereafter said character has the opportunity to dine with gnomes upon gold bars sprinkled with rubies, or indulge in roast stars, mashed snow cloud and fresh-buttered sunbeams at the fairies’ table.

You’ll plunge into rivers, climb mountains, fly through the air and creep through a dark wood to reach the villain’s abode; but what about defeating that villain – I wonder …

Superbly interactive with hundreds of possible combinations, this captivating magical book is an empowering springboard to encourage young readers to let their imaginations soar off to that once upon a time world of fairyland, creating a new and exciting adventure every time they pick up this book.

Alongside those exciting words of Natalia are Lauren’s bold, exquisitely detailed illustrations making the whole experience sheer joy. Perhaps later with creative juices flowing, children will want to start writing/drawing their own fairytales. You never know they might even be so inspired that one day, like the O’Hara sisters, they will start delving into the works of Joseph Campbell and Vladimir Propp. Till then, happy story-creating from this latest spellbinding O’Hara offering.

Frindleswylde

Frindleswylde
Natalia and Lauren O’Hara
Walker Books

This is the third book by the O’Hara sisters, Natalia who writes and Lauren who illustrates and what utter delight it is.

When Frindleswylde an eerie shapeshifter gains entry to the home of Cora and her Granny he steals the light and thus the house is plunged into darkness.

Cora sets off to try and get back the light so that her Granny is able to find her way home. She journeys beneath the pond to Frindleswylde’s frozen kingdom where she is at his mercy and is made Queen of Winter.

However he agrees to return the light so long as she can complete three Impossible Tasks, either that or remain forever captive in his realm.

Cora is determined to complete the three increasingly difficult tasks but can she succeed? Assuredly the thought of her Granny lost in the woods spurs her on try her utmost to outwit the deceitful captor.

This compelling, multi-layered tale has echoes of classic folk and fairy tales – Rumplestiltskin, The Snow Queen, The Six Servants for instance. Present too are those timeless fairytale themes of good versus evil, the all conquering power of love, a quest, and the loss of innocence.

Both the telling and the illustrations are magical: the former with its rich rhythmic flow of words and the latter, things of exquisite beauty in their own right: together they make for a wondrous read aloud fable that will utterly enchant younger listeners; and its themes will speak to older readers and adults showing that, among other things, we should continue to strive for what is right in today’s troubled world.

Hortense and the Shadow

Hortense and the Shadow
Natalia and Lauren O’Hara
Puffin Books

Combining elements of dark and light, the O’Hara sisters’ debut picture book has a haunting, fairytale quality that will have a wide appeal.
A little girl Hortense, who lives in an ornate mansion deep in the woods, is a kind, brave, caring child. However there’s one thing she hates: her own shadow. It follows her no matter where she goes or what she does; and when night falls, it grows ‘tall and dark and crooked.’
She tries hiding her shadow … to no avail:

she and her shadow remain locked in mutual hatred.
Then one evening Hortense manages to escape from its clutches: she feels liberated, happy and safe; although just occasionally it feels like she’s being watched.

One black night some bandits arrive and it seems all is lost; but then Hortense’s shadow appears and saves her.

That’s when the girl realises that, rather than being something to hate, her shadow is a part of what she is, ‘sometimes dark, cross, strange, silly, jagged or blue,‘ – the perfect ending for this highly original, allegorical fairytale.
Natalia O’Hara’s lyrical prose and Lauren’s delicate, muted illustrations, sometimes ornate, sometimes stark and looming, together make for a multi-layered story to have you tingling with delight. Absolutely beautiful.