A beautiful illustrated book
Since the publication of his saga in 2014 Malenferwritten according to the ideas of students met in elementary school, Cassandra O’Donnell he never stopped writing for young people, in order to find what could create an incentive to read in everyone. She gradually established herself as one of the main figures in fantasy literature, with very popular titles such as The legend of the four, Rebecca Kean or Bad college.
Grimelda Hauchecorne, published in October by Flammarion Jeunesse, is his first illustrated album for very young readers aged 6 and up. In this gothic story with an autumnal undertone, the author introduces us to the small-armed witch Grimelda who lives in Salem among the other inhabitants, some of whom are scarier than others. Only here Grimelda is different: she has a heart that prevents her from being cruel. Then the initiation quest begins for her to get rid of this bulky burden.
To create this beautiful 48-page book-case with a cardboard cover, Cassandra O’Donnell called upon her assistant decorator, storyboard artist, and art director. Jean-Mathias Xavier who had already illustrated the saga Bad college with a very characteristic black and white manga style. Here, from that inspiration, we only find the huge eyes of a graceful little mouse, because he opts for watercolor and paints, thus mixing drawing and painting. The palette used is quite dark and perfectly conveys the gothic story proposed by the author. The characters are sometimes terrifying, sometimes magnificent, and the line oscillates between the precision of the protagonist’s outline and the blur of the landscape that surrounds them, creating an interesting and elegant visual contrast. The paper used, very thick, allows a noticeable comfort of reading, and the format of the book, large and rectangular, completes this superbly illustrated work.
An initial, terrifying and poetic story
Grimelda Hauchecorne comes straight from Cassandra O’Donnell’s passion for storytelling. She says that as a child she adored the feeling of fear created by those stories and wants to pass it on. Nevertheless, she promises a happy ending to her story, because her goal, of course, is not to traumatize a new generation of readers. The characters depicted are of course terrifying, but the author has fun making fun of them thanks to Grimelda, a fearless little witch who is not afraid of anything, not even monsters. This underlying humor allows situations to be de-dramatized, without denying the impressive aspect of the beings encountered.
Therefore, it is a true horror and poetic story that Cassandra O’Donnell, for her part, sets out to write, and to do so she uses most of the codes of the genre: first, she reconnects with orality, regularly allowing her characters, and sometimes apostrophizing the reader.
At other times, his writing becomes more descriptive, drawing on a rich and precise vocabulary to teach his young audience. The heroine of the story has to complete a task and in turn meets characters who could help her, which gives the story the repetitive structure of traditional stories. Finally, the story is accompanied by a moral lesson, with which the author wants to awaken true philosophical questioning in children. Are there really heartless people or are they just poor people with broken hearts or drained by life? With great sensitivity, Cassandra O’Donnell offers this reflection, leading her young audience to heartwarming revelations.
Grimelda Hauchecorne is therefore a captivating, educational and superbly illustrated gothic tale suitable for young readers aged 6 and up. If the author has abandoned her adolescent audience this time, she has not forgotten her goal: “above all to satisfy and encourage reading”.