The Rabbit and the Shadow

The Rabbit and the Shadow

Illustrator & author Mélanie Rutten

Book Island, Hbk, 285mm x 220mm, AUD $32.95

ISBN 978 0 9941098 0 4

Translator Sarah Ardizzone

Originally published as L’ombre de chacun, Editions MeMo 2013

The first thing to say about The Rabbit and the Shadow is that it’s a perfect combination of illustration and word. The story begins in the close, loving relationship of a large, protective stag and the young, vulnerable and lively rabbit. A few brief pages modulate their bonding, discovery, joy, harmony – and the possibility of separation. Their relationship presents all of the complex emotions that love and parenting – and being a small child – entail.


The story introduces, in a most sinuous and twisting path, their bond of love and “a Soldier at war, a Cat who keeps having the same dream, a Book who wants to know everything, and a Shadow”.


Each of these characters, save perhaps for the Shadow (whose secret identity is delightfully revealed), have a hidden side or something they fear. The Rabbit, the Soldier and the Cat form a team “to prove we’re not afraid of…of…”

“Of climbing volcanoes,” said the Rabbit.

“Yes! Of climbing volcanoes!” shouted the Soldier.


Using short chapters, the story doesn’t unfold in a straightforward way, as it weaves in the fears and dreams of each character. This includes a conversation between the Rabbit and the Stag that is a key to the Rabbit’s journey away from home. Very elegantly and gently the book introduces the idea of growing old and dying, but also of family, memory and love. Ultimately The Rabbit and the Shadow is a remarkable and unforgettable celebration of love. The eccentric touches never become cloying, the philosophy never navel-gazing. Perhaps the free brushwork and sinuous line keep any outward appearance of seriousness in check. It is a kind of Runaway Bunny tale that comes from a deeply felt place.

Mélanie Rutten’s illustration uses a full colour palette from deep rich burning reds to cool forest browns and greens, as she creates a complete world. Deep nighttime blues contrast with the vivid golds and a skillful use of white space. The visual rhythm balances intimate and nuanced cameo images with full-page sumptuous full pages and two significant double page spreads. There is an effortless harmony throughout, that amplifies the reading pleasure.

About Mélanie Rutten

Born in Belgium, Mélanie spend much of her childhood in Central America and Africa before returning to Belgium as a teenager. She studied photography in Brussels. Although her illustration work is largely self-taught, Mélanie studied with Kitty Crowther at La Gaumette, a centre for creativity. Her previous books for the French publisher éditions MeMo include Öko, un thé en hiver and Mitsu, un jour parfait.

About the translator: Sarah Ardizzone is an award winning translator of French literature. She has translated books by Alain Mabanckou, Daniel Pennac, Timothee de Fombelle and Joann Sfar. She told the website Publishing Perspectives that her strengths “are dialogue and something that feels contemporary and alive”. Both qualities are very much to the fore in The Rabbit and the Shadow: while there is something classic about the story it always feels immediate and original.


Sélection Petite Fureur 2014
Lauréat Prix Fernand Baudin 2014
Prix Brindacier 2014
Honourable Mention - Fiction – Bologna Ragazzi Award 2014
Prix "Folies d'encre" 2013
Sélection Pépites de l'album 2013 - Salon du Livre et de la Presse jeunesse de Montreuil