Poppy and the Stranger by Eli Jay is a new children's book illustrated with original artwork, incorporating a common childhood themes: the fear of the dark and shadows. The topic of shadows is not a new theme in children's books, because of the prevelance of the childhood fear of dark, shadows which often are noticible at bedtime. Poppy, the somewhat deflated, green balloon, discovers that the "stranger" he fears following him is simply his shadow, and that it is nothing to be afraid of.
What makes this book unique is the original, eclectic mix of characters such as "Poppy", the timid and solomn, deflated, green balloon as well as the nightime typical woodland creatures: Gamble, the Fox and Ollie, the owl, the snake and bear. "Ollie" the owl, does not happen to be stereotypical wise, old, owl commonly seen in stories. In fact Ollie points the balloon to search for answers elsewhere. In a twist, the fox and snake, normally depicted as sly and deceitful in countless fairy tales and stories are considered to be the trustworthy, wise forrest creature in this story.The author, Eli Jay challlanges the common sterotype of the traditional designated roles of the owl and fox, and reverses them in this story. Instead of deceiving and eating Poppy, the snake and fox direct the balloon to the wise, brown bear, named "Lyndon", the "leader of the woods". The bear leads Poppy to the truth about the shadow and shows him that there is nothing to fear.
The simply drawn, yet somber, and dark, shadowy collors and harsh lines of the illustrations - reminiscent of an adolescent's artwork, give this book a gothic type of appearance. The autthor apparently illustrated his own story. The illustrations convey opposing messages at times. On the otherhand, the simplistic faces on the balloon and characters make the illustrations more light hearted for children. I found the shadowy, ill defined, somber face on the full moon in one scene, contrasted with the smiling face on the simple small cloud next to it. Throughout the story, the intense, and serious look on the moon is negated by the friendly faces on the tiny clouds that surround it. The bear and the fox are depicted with evil grins, yet they are friendly and helpful nonetheless. The bear's den is actually a warm, brightly lit home- contrasting with the grim foggy darkness of the woods, and the balloon is served cocoa by the bear.
This is a story that I think young children will enjoy. In fact, it might be popular if it was marketed in larger bookstores. The theme will be universally accepted by parants and children alike. As a blogger I recieved this book published by Outskirts Press, from the author, for the purpose of writing this review.