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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
RainShadow by Candice Gartzke is a fantasy picture book that revolves around the isolated life of mythical creatures in the rainforest. RainShadow is the combining of names that belong to two of the story's characters. Rain is an elemental spirit who is able to harness the power of the weather, with climate dictated by her will and, less pleasantly, through her emotions. Shadow is a shapeshifter that moves between his physical forms of a two-legged being like Rain, and his sleek, stealthy panther existence. The pair grow to love and depend on each other, separated only when the outside influence of human greed and consumption forces Shadow into a danger that only the perseverance of love and connection can fuel...something only Rain possesses.
RainShadow is a unique story in a long-established genre, and Candice Gartzke does well in the way she whispers a bit of new life into a place where only very old tales exist. The illustrations are a mix of sketch and paint-styled artwork that take on the appearance of earthy pan tones layered in gradients on top of a watercolor wash. Rain and Shadow are ethnically ambiguous, which is important to me with young readers in our diverse household. In a nod to how far storytelling has come, it was refreshing to read about a female rescuing a male. This is the standout theme of this book for me. The narrative is likely to be considered a bit on the mature side, particularly where it unapologetically introduces violence and entrapment, but again, Rain pushing forward to save her “protector” gave the book a strong leg up. Recommended.