Pedrosa, Cyril - Three Shadows
by Cyril Pedrosa
Doing this, he - at the same time - manages to turn this to a story in such a way that love and devotion isn't overblown, parental love and readiness to sacrifice or death of a child doesn't actually loose its threat, but becomes something one can talk about.
This is what makes this book so fascinating and precious.
Reading the first pages, "Three Shadows" seemed like a normal adventure story - the drawings not being very detailed.
The story is about the rural idyll of a family, father, mother and litte son Joachim, who are suddenly being threatened by something unexplainable. Three men, riding on horses, at the beginning not more than shadows in the distance, turn up on the hills far away. And even though there still seems to be a happy safety, something father and mother try to give Joachim, danger remains under the surface. A tour, father and son intended to make, is being interupted by sudden fog and they have to return home, the farmdog Diego suddenly disappears, and - most scaring - the three horsemen return, this time much closer, and then they almost enter the farm. The father, a man of action rather, runs after them, tries to catch them - yet in vain.
It seems there is nothing that can help them and (at first) the reader doesn't really know who the shadows are. Yet it becomes clearer: They have come to get Joachim.
The father, trying to prevent the loss of his son by all means, searches for a way to outwit the shadows. In a foggy night he secretly leaves the farm with his son and together the two begin an adventurous run.
Three Shadows is a Graphic Novel, where the illustrations are clearly dominant, compared to the text, which is used sparingly and often designed in a way that readers who are not fluent in English can enjoy the story. In many sequences text becomes, together with the illustrations, a creative means, for exemple in a scene where the mother is reading in an old diary of hers that shows that she already knows about the three shadows, while, at the same time, the illustrations tell how the father, who has just left the farm, has to fight against the shadows who want to take Joachim from him.
Actually Cyril Pedrosa uses his illustrations over and over again to not only support the story or to move it further on. He uses his style intensively to express tension or make sure that something supernatural is going on. Thus he moves between detailled ilustrations, e.g. on the ship Joachim and his father travel upon, and sketches of brightness and darkness, without outlines, mere playing with lightness and shadow.
What seemed "not very detailed" in the beginning, quickly turns out to be a really exaggerated way of illustrating. The father is not only strong and able, whereas the mother is a small female being. A scene such as the moment when the farm seems to be attacked one night, was particular impressive for me in that aspect. In some pictures, the two parents are shown naked: While the father has a chest like a rising bear and is full of muscles, the mother feels like a lost girl with her pointed girlish breasts.
Cyril Pedrosa is French and worked for Disney among others after finishing his studies. In 2011 he won the Canadian Prix Bédelys Monde for french-speaking international illustrations with his book called "Portugal".
I have laughed and cried, reading Three Shadows, I had a wonderful reading time and became aware of certain aspects of child death. Thanks to First Second for publishing Three Shadows, and thanks to Cyril Pedrosa for sharing his thoughts with us.
By the way: For our German readers who prefer the German language - the book is available in German, translation by Annette von der Weppen, published by Reprodukt. The book is 20 Euro.