It’s not easy to move between the land of the living and the no-longer-living. Just ask Orpheus: unfortunate things happen; lessons are learnt; things change. Emily Gravett makes such movement look deceptively easy at the very outset of the latest collaboration with A.F. Harrold, The Afterwards. At least, it appears easy in her first illustration of the book. A straggly, all-seeing cat, steps out from a framed panel that depicts the greyish tones of the realm of the somewhat-dead that features in the book. Out he steps, onto the crisp, clean pages of the book itself, bold as brass and easy as pie. This cat knows no boundaries: physical, textual, or otherwise. He slinks here and appears there, across the book, and he leaves the more conventionally human-like characters – good and bad – looking relatively helpless in his wake.
Gravett’s illustrations are a wonderful complement to Harrold’s poetic, idiosyncratic words. As in The Imaginary, Gravett makes tremendous use of light, shade, and outright darkness to bring to half-life the happy-sad-happy tale of two friends, cruelly, and abruptly separated. Two stubbornly loyal, determinedly committed friends, as it turns out.
I am dancing around the story, and hopefully just giving a gist. I’m keen to avoid spoilers at any cost. The Afterwards has all the hallmarks of Harrold’s earlier books that explore friendships crossing from one world to another and the complications and quandaries that follow – much like Eurydice. The Afterwards is a book that would work very well as a story to be read to your class; equally, it will pay rich dividends for individual readers and is perhaps best suited to upper juniors.
If you are sharing in class, be sure to complete the circle and return to the prologue.
You might like to listen to our podcast with A F Harrold
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These notes may be printed freely for use in classrooms but may not be reproduced in any other format without the permission of the author.