In Shadowland


See what happens when opposite worlds intersect.

In Shadowland is a picture book by Mitsumasa Anno that tells the story of two characters: a match girl who lives in a shadowless, wintry town and a watchman who guards the realm where shadows live. The book follows the two characters, first separately, then together, as they cross back and forth between each other’s worlds.

The stories of each world are told in parallel and progress as a series of double-page spreads, rendered in contrasting visual styles: the left-hand pages depict the match girl in watercolor and ink while the right-hand pages show the watchman against stark black silhouettes of cut paper. Each style is appropriate for the world it represents and the effect of seeing them side by side is complementary.

I enjoy Mitsumasa Anno’s unique approach to storytelling: although his books contain narratives and characters, they aren’t the main focus. Their role is to introduce a familiar element to otherwise abstract concepts, such as up and down (Upside Downers) or simple logical premises, such as a sequence of numbers (Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar). In Shadowland explores the concepts of light and shadow, and of time, in the form of parallel story lines, in a visually imaginative way.

Find In Shadowlands at your local library.