Eleven-year old Anita’s world comes crashing down when her parents are abducted by a mysterious figure called the King of Shadows. She learns that they have been imprisoned in the Endless Maze next to the main city of Shadowland; and the only way to enter it and save her parents is to play the intriguing game of shadows.
Armed with a handy bag of tricks designed to counter almost all the dangers lurking in Shadowland, and with her friends Choco and Sabena firmly by her side, Anita just might have a chance of surviving the evil king’s domain and foiling his sinister plans.
Written by the prolific children’s writer and poet Deepa Agarwal, The Game of Shadows is a thrilling adventure story filled with fantastical elements and larger-than-life characters. The Game of Shadows is part of Scholastic India’s Junior Adventure series, which includes books with riveting stories interlaid with games, puzzles, maps, and a whole lot of fun.
We got in touch with the author and the illustrators of The Game of Shadows for a quick chat about the book, their work in general, and much more –
Her historical adventure novel, Caravan to Tibet, was selected for the IBBY(International Board On Books For Young People) Honour List 2008 from India and like some of her earlier titles, was listed in the White Raven Catalogue of the International Youth Library, Munich. Her work has appeared in Japanese, Chinese and Korean as well as sixteen Indian languages.
How did the idea for The Game of Shadows come to you?
Deepa: Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by shadows. Even at the age of four or five I was very intrigued by the fact that my shadow copied my actions. It was almost as if it were an alter ego. Earlier I used to mostly write mystery and adventure stories or those about real life problems and issues. When it was first suggested that I try my hand at a fantasy, the idea of an evil being that took possession of people’s shadows in order to control them came to me. The story developed slowly, though the theme of a child rescuing her parents from a dangerous situation had been going around in my mind for some time.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Do you write every day or whenever the fancy strikes you?
Deepa: Story material is all around us. I get inspiration from real life incidents and situations, chance phrases and sentences. Sometimes an opening sentence or an idea flashes into my mind. I try to write every day, unless I am travelling or preoccupied with other activities. It’s not a question of the fancy striking occasionally. Like any other profession, writing is an occupation that requires you to work regularly. If you work in fits and starts you cannot consider yourself a writer. I have many half written stories or outlines lying around and it feels as if I never have enough time to complete them.
Tell us about your childhood. Have any of your early experiences translated into material for your books?
Deepa: I grew up in Almora, a small town in Uttarakhand and went to boarding school at Naini Tal at the age of seven. My father was a doctor and my mother a schoolteacher. We were six brothers and sisters and one brother and two sisters were much older than my two younger brothers and me. We were surrounded by wide, open spaces and spent a lot of time outdoors, trekking to our favourite spots in the neighbourhood of the town. I was a bookworm from the beginning since my mother introduced me to reading very early. We had few luxuries, but now I realise how privileged I was to pass my childhood in that environment. Some of my short stories are indeed, based on early experiences like the short story “Fire” from my collection Not Just Girls which is based on a true incident when a friend and I unthinkingly set fire to the forest. I wrote it to try and answer a question that had always troubled me. Several others are inspired by happenings in boarding school like “Letter from Home”, “A Caterpillar Called Matthew” or by our interaction with people around us, like the story “Signature”.
What kind of stories do you enjoy writing the most? Among the books you’ve written, is there one that’s really close to your heart?
Deepa: I just enjoy writing! It’s a challenge to work out the plot of a mystery and I think adventure stories seem to come naturally to me. Probably the result of my early reading, and perhaps the fact that we were exposed to real life adventure. We had people in our family who were explorers or mountaineers and there were exciting incidents of panthers prowling around in winter and even attacking our dogs. About books being close to my heart it’s hard to mention a specific one, since books are like your children. Writing Game of Shadows was like a challenge and I enjoyed going over it again when this new edition came out. But I have written many different kinds of books so I have separate corners in my heart for each!
Which is your all-time favourite children’s book?
Deepa: That’s a tough one! But I think Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White is one of the most wonderful books I’ve read.
Team Oktopus—the Junior Adventure series illustrator duo, Constanza and Diego make all their drawings with magical ink from an enchanted forest that’s behind their house. Originally from Chile, they are currently living in Bangalore.
How did you get into illustrating?
TO: Like everyone else does: making drawings in our notebooks when we were too bored to pay attention to whatever the teacher was saying. We quickly realised that this method for passing time actually worked, and after you start living inside your drawings is really impossible to stop… so we guess that boring teachers were the people responsible for the thousands of unicorns, zombies and princesses we ended up drawing. Thank you boring teachers: YOU ROCK!
Tell us about your working relationship. How often do you disagree on say, the way you approach a project or the look of a certain page?
TO: Working as a team is awesome, we are always on the same page and, to be honest, our work would be downright ugly if we were separate. We do sometimes have the issue that one of us makes something really horrible but presents it anyway due to boredom, stress, or whatever and the other one is forced to do some honesty-time “that is really bad, you should do it all over again. PLEASE“… but we do it happily because we really like what we do (and because getting cranky is a severe offence here at our headquarters … Whoever commits such a severe offence is forced to wear a chicken suit next day to work).
How would you describe your art style?
TO: Hahahahha, that’s a hard question to answer… maybe we don’t read too much art books for nothing comes to mind RIGHT NOW, but we like to think of what we do as cute, rounded and funny. So clearly we are not modernists, if that’s any help whatsoever.
What are the joys and challenges associated with illustrating for children?
TO: This is the best job in the universe (yes, we are considering intergalactic overlord) so the joys are way too many to mention. This is not to say that it’s an easy job – basically we need to make kids go – Hey! I like this drawing! So their experience of reading the text is better with drawings than without them. That’s the challenge, to create something that people care about in some level. Luckily we have worked with amazing authors so most of the job is done for us, but HEY! do not tell anyone that: it’s a secret.
How did you go about illustrating The Game of Shadows? What kind of tools did you use?
TO: First, pen and paper (classics never die!) and second – Adobe Illustrator. It’s an awesome software that let’s you draw all those perfect circles you have always dreamt about. But be warned: the computer will NOT make the drawings for you, so keep that pencil busy!
If you were given the opportunity to illustrate a classic children’s book, which one would you pick?
TO: Tricky question! All our favourites ARE favourites because of the mix between amazing story and breath-taking illustrations. Our edition of Alice Through the Looking glass came with the incredible Jon Tenniel’s depictions of Wonderland. Roald Dahl’s stories were alongside Quentin Blake’s gorgeous drawings. The Little Prince was drawn by Monseuir Antoine himself! We could go on and on, but, thing is, we think those books are perfect with their original illustrations. That said, we would really really REALLY enjoy doing artwork for fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen would be awesome. Super ultra mega awesome.
Watch out for The Secret of the Rainbow Phoenix, our forthcoming title in the Scholastic Young Adventure series, meant for a slightly younger readership.