Sarah and the Steep Slope (Danny Parker, illus by Matt Ottley, Little Hare)
Sarah and the Steep Slope is a new picture book from the creative duo behind Tree and Parachute. Sarah wakes up one day to find a slope trapping her in the house and blocking the light from her day. She tries a series of things to remove the slope, even consulting the ‘slope doctor’, but in the end it’s only through the help of her friends that Sarah finds the way up and out. This is a gentle, warm-hearted picture book that depicts how it feels to be overwhelmed by life’s obstacles, and reminds readers that they can ask for help. Danny Parker’s text is minimal and effective; his short, simple sentences create a story with weight and substance. Illustrator Matt Ottley uses shapes and angles to convey a sense of vulnerability and loneliness; the furniture towers over Sarah and the space around her stretches out vast and wide. It is only when she begins to overcome the slope that light starts to creep into the pictures and the shadows disappear. Sarah and the Steep Slope explores the effects of anxiety and fear in an appropriate and thoughtful way for children aged three and up. Recommended for fans of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree, this is a picture book that will grow with children and resonate in new ways as they re-read it at different ages.
Maria H Alessandrino is a Perth-based writer and freelance reviewer