About the Holiday
Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading and books, was founded in 1919 and is the longest-running literacy initiative in the United States. This year’s theme is Read. Dream. Share. While the holiday is usually celebrated by authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities across the country, this year’s events will take place online. You can follow #BookWeek2020atHome and visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.
Little Cheetah’s Shadow
By Marianne Dubuc
Little Cheetah had looked everywhere but he couldn’t find his shadow. He sat down on a bench under a big tree to think. Bea the firefly saw Little Cheetah looking dejected and flew down to see what the matter was. Much to Little Cheetah’s delight, Bea told him that his shadow was sitting in the tree. Little Cheetah climbed to the very top, where he found his shadow looking just as glum as he had been. He asked his shadow what was wrong.
“‘You always get to go first. You always get to choose where we go,’” he said. And it seemed that Little Cheetah never held the door for shadow, whose tail invariably got caught as it closed. Little Cheetah was empathetic. “‘Oh! That doesn’t sound very nice at all,’” he agreed. And he offered to let his shadow go first from now on. The new arrangement was working out just fine.
Along the way, Little Cheetah got a hankering for bread from Mr. Boubou’s bakery, so they headed over and bought a nice loaf. On the way out, Little Shadow forgot about holding the door, and Little Cheetah’s tail was nipped when it closed. “‘Ouch!’” Now Little Cheetah understood Little Shadow’s complaint, and Little Shadow understood how it happened. They decided that it might be best “to walk next to each other.” When they came to a tunnel, Little Shadow stopped, afraid to go in. “‘In the dark, I disappear!’” he explained. Fortunately, Little Cheetah still had his flashlight from his earlier search. He turned it on and entered the tunnel, telling Little Shadow to stay close. Little Shadow clung to Little Cheetah, and “together, they faced the dark.”
They made it through, and when they got home Little Cheetah held the door for Little Shadow and let him enter first. They shared bread and jam and played cards, and when they went to bed “Little Cheetah made sure a night-light was turned on for Little Shadow” so they’d both sleep soundly.
Marianne Dubuc is a master of the quiet, poignant tale that deepens readers’ connection with others. In Cheetah’s Little Shadow, she uses the configuration of a body in front, the shadow behind to encourage children to think about issues such as leadership, equality, being considerate, and what being a true friend really means. Little Cheetah’s immediate recognition and acknowledgment of Little Shadow’s feelings is a touching and welcome moment. When Cheetah’s tail is caught in a door a short time later, both characters have a chance to understand the problem from both sides. This kind of experience is so valuable in developing empathy, and Dubuc’s story will encourage children to be mindful of how their actions affect others.
Dubuc’s watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are lovely and invite readers to notice an intriguing detail. As Little Shadow relates his experience and, later, as he and Little Cheetah walk through town and then enjoy time at home, children will see that Little Shadow is not merely a copy of Little Cheetah, but that he is his own person too. Charming homes and shops make up the small downtown, and the double-page spreads of Little Cheetah and Little Shadow’s home are cozy.
Like Little Cheetah’s flashlight and nightlight, this book shines the way to stronger empathy and friendships. Little Cheetah’s Shadow would be a superlative addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.
Ages 3 – 7
Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898403
Discover more about Marianne Dubuc, her books, and her art on her website.
Children’s Book Week Activity
Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!
You can find Little Cheetah’s Shadow at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound
Picture Book Review