Sarah is unable to leave her home because of the steep slope. The steep slope is directly outside her door and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot scale it. She misses her friends and is home alone, with only her dog for company. When she calls the doctor all she can she see in the cards he shows her is the steep slope. She decides to write to her friends, asking the doctor to post her letters. When they arrive they don’t see the slope, and stay to play with Sarah all day. The next day, when she opens her door, the slope is different, easier to climb, and her friends help her when she feels it is too steep.
This is a beautifully crafted book about depression, darkness, and the help friends can give. So much is explained in the sparse text and intricate illustrations. Different readers will take many different things away with them during and after the experience. The importance of friends and the support they can provide is vividly expressed.
As always with Matt Ottley’s work, the use of picturebook codes is exceptional. His use of perspective is sometimes dizzying, as can be seen in Parachute, also written by Danny Parker, and is used to effect here. He has coupled this with the use of line, in the shading, outlines of the building and the slope itself to convey mood and meaning. Colour is used to accentuate the anxiety felt by Sarah, and direction and shape also feature as effective devices in the visual narrative.
Many will be able to relate to this book. Not only will it help those with their own slope, it will also help friends and family to understand. Books like this are essential in school and public libraries for these reasons. Sarah and the Steep Slope is also an excellent example of a true picturebook with Matt Ottley’s amazing illustrations working seamlessly with Danny Parker’s verbal text.
Many thanks to Hardie Grant Publishing for sending this book for review.