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Natalia and Lauren O'Hara

About The Author

Natalia and Lauren O'HaraBorn to an English father and Eastern European mother, Natalia and Lauren O'Hara draw inspiration from Slavic fables and Soviet-era illustration, as well as classic English fairytales. Natalia read English at Oxford and Cambridge, Lauren, who is three years her junior, studied Fine Art and Illustration at Kingston University. They work in tandem with Natalia – who previously edited film scripts – writing, and Lauren – formerly a set designer – illustrating. The sisters live in London, and planned their debut picture book, Hortense and the Shadow over coffee in the Café at Foyles Charing Cross. It tells the story of a small girl who hates her shadow, which is tall and dark and crooked, and plots to get rid of it. But later, alone in the woods, she discovers that a girl without a shadow is far smaller...

Below, exclusively for Foyles, Natalia and Lauren describe their lifelong love affair with fairytales and introduce five of their favourites.

 

 

 

The Author At Foyles

Cover of Hortense and the ShadowWhen we were small, our grandmother read us The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. 'I read this when I was a little girl in Poland,' she said, 'and let me tell you a secret. This book is filled with magic. As you grow bigger it will grow too.' That was the beginning of our passion for fairytales. We loved Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen with its courageous heroine, the bewildering romance of East of the Sun and West of the Moon and The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship - so full of wonders!

 

Dahl's Revolting Rhymes made us laugh and Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier was so sad we were angry. As we grew older we found other, longer books, and discovered they were full of the ghosts of fairytales; Wasn’t the witch in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis another devious Snow Queen? Didn’t Mr Craven in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden annex his garden away from unhappy children like Oscar Wilde's Selfish Giant? Later, when we read the Brontës, Daphne du Maurier and Charles Dickens, we realised it isn’t only children’s authors who are haunted by fairytales.

 

Like our grandmother, we think fairytales are full of magic. They are simple when you are small, change when you’re not looking and reveal their secrets when you’re ready to hear them. We like them best when they are full of unexpected twists and beautiful illustrations. Here are five of our favourites.

Author Picks

A Necklace Of Raindrops
(Hardback)
Joan Aiken; Jan Pienkowski
 
One blusterous night Mr Jones rescues the North Wind, who is caught in a holly tree. He is rewarded with a gift: the North Wind will become godfather to his baby daughter Laura, and give her a necklace of raindrops. With it, Laura can stop the rain, pass through storms or swim any ocean. We were fascinated by this collection of fairytales as children and spent hours trying to make raindrops stick to bits of string. Joan Aiken’s imagination is miraculous, and Jan Pienkowski fills this book with joy through his vivid, exuberant illustrations.
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East of the Sun and West of the Moon:...
(Hardback)
Kay Nielsen
 
The fairytales of Northern Europe are spellbinding, and this is our favourite edition. Published in 1914 (fairytales always thrive in hard times) this collection of Norwegian tales is illustrated by the great Danish artist Kay Nielsen. We’re especially fond of the title story 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon', about a young bride whose husband, a bear by day and a man by night, is snatched away when she breaks her promise not to look at him when he takes off his bearskin.
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£28.99
 
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The 13 Clocks
(Hardback)
James Thurber; Marc Simont; Neil Gaiman
 
If you have read this book, you know why it is here, and if you haven’t, buy it immediately and find out. Published in 1950, it is the story of a cold-hearted duke, his princess-captive, a castle full of broken clocks and an indescribable Grolux. James Thurber’s language is a delight; sometimes sly, sometimes tender and always poetic ('creeping knee-deep in a sleepy stream, in which swift and slippery snakes slid and slithered silkily, whispering sinful secrets…'). Thurber had illustrated his earlier books, but by 1950, when he wrote this, he was almost completely blind and asked the wonderful Marc Simont to collaborate.
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The Selfish Giant: Minedition...
(Hardback)
Oscar Wilde; Lisbeth Zwerger
 
This edition with illustrations by the Austrian artist Lisbeth Zwerger, is haunting. Though Wilde’s language is dense and exact, Zwerger’s watercolours are delicate and seem to touch a fragility buried in Wilde’s story. We love the restrained palette and surprising angles; the reader often seems to be looking at the giant from above, as though we know a little more than he does. This story about tyranny, selfishness, exile and compassion seems more important every year.
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An Illustrated Treasury of Hans...
(Hardback)
Hans Christian Andersen; Anastasiya...
 
In 1968, Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia and our mother, who was 13 at the time, was sent to her room to pack a suitcase. It would carry her from Prague, to Vienna, to Stoke-on-Trent, but instead of following her parents’ instructions and filling it with socks and vests she buried Hans Christian Andersen's Fairytales under her favourite dress. We spent hours as children poring over her copy, which was bound in faded blue cloth and full of inky colour illustrations by the great Czech artist Jiří Trnka. We couldn’t understand the words, which were in Czech, but that only made this book more intriguing. An English translation of this edition was published in 1960,but is sadly out of print.
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Available Titles By This Author

Hortense and the Shadow
(Hardback)
Natalia O'Hara
 
 
£10.99
 

Past Events for this Author

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