If you miss the simple, effective stories girls tell at slumber parties, the five illustrated tales of Through the Woods just might keep you awake at night. Think of darkness and an atmosphere of foreboding splashed with blood. Remember how good it feels to be scared. Rejoice if you have children because this book can definitely be shared with kids–but read it yourself first. All of the stories are strong and thematically linked, many of them set in those well known and oh-so-dangerous woods. My two favorites, “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” and “The Nesting Place”, present young ladies faced with a terrifying unraveling of the domestic sphere.
Reading Beautiful Darkness, where chaos and confusion reign, brings to mind Heart of Darkness or Lord of the Flies. In this forest little woodland creatures quickly turn to violence, often devouring each other outright, while the goodhearted Aurora tries to maintain order and take care of others. Sentimentality is impossible: insects, birds and humans are a serious threat, and the demands of survival force the heroine to undergo a transformation that is as chilling as it is successful. The betrayals the characters enact upon each other–watch what happens when Aurora has to fight for her prince–are even more disturbing than the physical brutality of the story. Kerascoët’s lovely, detailed watercolors make our visit to this dark forest feel all the more devastating.
Eulalia, the mermaid of Julia Gfrörer’s Black Is the Color, tells us the truth about halfway through this haunting little book: “You don’t want to know about me”. And she is right. Black Is the Color starts as a survival story and then descends into a feverish dream tinged with mad passion. This mermaid is the stuff of sailors’ nightmares, but the window Gfrörer gives us into her world is a rare gift. A brief work composed of exquisitely simple drawings, Black Is the Color drowns the reader in a sea of mystery, sex and longing.