Adelaide's Secret World

Elise Hurst
AUD $24.99

Set in a mysterious city inhabited by a rich cast of characters, this enchanting and superbly illustrated story celebrates creativity and friendship.

Adelaide leads a quiet life in the midst of the city. At night she listens to the song of the stars, but during the day she watches over the others like her: the still ones, the quiet ones, those who dance and dream alone.

Little does Adelaide know that her secret world will soon be transformed into something unexpected and full of joy.

A story about courage, change and finding your soul mates.

'Becoming lost in a picture book and wanting to turn back to the first page again is a very special experience. This is such a book.' 5 stars, Margaret Hamilton, Books + Publishing

'[A] fox and Adelaide unknowingly document each other's lives through art. When a storm blows, forcing them to collide, readers' human hearts sing...These portraits of animals struggling with human feelings startle with their emotional exactitude, empathy, and expert execution. Complex feelings articulated through heart-rending paintings that beg return visits.' Starred review, Kirkus Reviews, USA

Author bio:

Elise Hurst is an illustrator and author of children's books, as well as a traditional artist. She has illustrated over fifty books over the years. The Night Garden (ABC Books), which she wrote and illustrated, received a Children's Book Council of Australia shortlisting in 2008. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, Peter, and their twin boys.

Category: Children's
ISBN: 9781743313350
Awards: Long-listed CBCA Picture Book of the Year 2016 AU; Short-listed Prime Minister's Literary Awards - Children's Fiction 2016 AU
Publisher: A&U Children's
Imprint: A & U Children
Pub Date: October 2015
Page Extent: 32
Format: Hard Cover
Age: 4 - 8
Subject: Children's, Teenage & educational


Teachers Reviews

I read this book to a classroom of Prep, Grade 1 and 2 students and asked for their responses. They thought the story was ‘strange’ and ‘weird’ with some sad bits but they liked the ending. The single sentences were evocative and the words in the story cast a spell on my audience. The children weren’t quite sure what the story was all about but they wanted to know what was going to happen. My students loved the soft illustrations that captured the moods of night and the storm. They were also charmed by the juxtaposition of animals and people within the story. However, to make sense of this story I think that the reader needs to be able to read the book alone, at their own pace and be able to look carefully at the illustrations. Reading to a large group of children, they are not able to decipher details such as the birds being transformed into boats and fish or identify the sea animals in the sky. In the story’s ending, I totally missed that it was Adelaide’s unravelling curtain that joined the characters together. So by all means, read this book to a class but then let the students individually pore over the pages to appreciate the magical details contained within this beautiful picture book.
Anne Gray, Glen Huon Primary School, TAS

Adelaide lives alone in a large city, sitting quietly at her window recalling the bustling life and the friendships that once were when people lived and worked in the neighbourhood, but now strangely silent as each individual hurries off after their own pursuits. Hidden behind her red curtain, Adelaide is invisible to those scurrying along the streets, lonely and isolated despite being in the midst of so much movement and motion. It is indeed, a secret world. She amuses herself by turning her observations into artworks, making up stories to go with each character- those like her who are “the still ones, the quiet ones, those who dance and dream alone”, capturing each in the clean, clear glass bubble of a terrarium, each discrete and disconnected from the other, just as they seem to be in real life. But one day she is restless and she goes out – only to be caught in a thunderstorm which changes not only her life forever, but also of those she sees each day. The red curtain that has hidden her starts to unravel and becomes the thread that binds…

This is an enchanting, almost mystical story about being alone and lonely and having the courage to act when the opportunity arises to find the kindred spirit that each of us is looking for. It matters not that, in this case, Adelaide is a rabbit and her soulmate is a fox – that just strengthens the message that opposites attract and the one we thought we could not be friends with, is actually the right one for us.

The beautiful illustrations mirror the mood of the story perfectly – they are subdued and misty with soft-edges that suggest that blurry look of times past and times future as they lack clarity, but are sharp, bright and in focus in the here and now. Calm and turmoil are juxtaposed in colour, line and movement and are the perfect complement to the text, both the physical and internal storms that Adelaide has to weather.

On the surface this is a picture book about being lonely and then not, but it is such a universal story that contains so many metaphors both within and without that every reading reveals new layers. Hurst writes, “The rain soaked windows glittered like a jewellery box.” In my opinion, this is a treasure chest with so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

You can get a sneak peek at
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, NSW

As a visual literacy piece this beautiful book elicits much feeling to a viewer/reader. I recommend that firstly each student look through the painted pages of the book and the 2nd viewing read the text. Then have a discussion about the visual story and later about the written story. I feel the viewing will elicit inner feelings from children, especially the children on the autism and anxiety spectrums. As these spectrums increase in occurrence in today’s society we need to find ways for children on these spectrums to express themselves, and release inner tension held inside their little hearts, for whatever reason.

I would recommend that children be given the opportunity to work with paint mediums, especially watercolour paints to reflect their soulful feelings from the story before any discussion. Then a class reading of the story could take place and the written story will reveal different feelings in the children.

Quotes that evoke inner feelings for discussion:
“soft light of evening”
“Quiet stillness crept into her heart and stayed”
“dawn and dusk are felt”
“The storm tumbled and churned people and place, street and hearts, and as the sun rose the next day Adelaide felt the release.”

I think it will help children without anxiety and autism spectrums come to understand a little better why some children don’t participate easily in social situations and why they stand back and watch in the classroom and playground. Children need to have clues as to how to accept and understand these differences in people as these spectrums increase in this modern world and to realise that some children suffer from, anger, fear and loneliness. I think this book helps in many ways to give clues to children.

The use of computers and other electronic equipment has changed our world and brought a different way of socializing to the world that some people are lost in, many younger and older people. Compassion needs to be taken by each of us in our journeys. I would also recommend working with clay to model some characters from the story. This is always enjoyable and can also help evoke discussion from troubled and happy souls.
Diane Lucas, Part-time Teacher, Milkwood Steiner School, NT