Harriet’s Reflections – Marion Kadi

Harriet's Reflections by Marion Kadi
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on February 13, 2024
Genres: Children's
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An imaginative tale about a rambunctious lion reflection and the fierce little girl he decides to mirror.

One day the reflection of a lion decides to reflect someone different. He picks a little girl named Harriet, who eagerly accepts the new face staring back at her. Harriet loves how ferocious she is now at school: she’s not afraid to speak up in class, and she can romp around the playground like a wild beast. But soon Harriet starts to miss the reflection she had before, the one who looked like her. Can Harriet find a way to balance her old reflection and her new one?

This whimsical story explores themes of confidence and identity with colorful illustrations and a sly sense of humor. Delightful and unconventional, Harriet’s Reflections is the perfect read-aloud for anyone who’s ever wondered about the face on the other side of the mirror—and what they might do next.

Harriet’s Reflections is actually the story of a lion’s reflection. The lion was old and died, leaving his reflection behind. The reflection didn’t know where to go and wandered around until he saw Harriet. He would be Harriet’s reflection! Now imbued with the spirit of the lion, Harriet feels fierce and confident. All is well, until…well it turns out that there a limit to appropriate fierceness. Can Harriet’s old reflection and new reflection work together? It turns out they can.

This is an odd little book. The theme seems to be finding a balance between fierceness—outspokenness, confidence and extroversion—with timidness, which isn’t portrayed with any positive qualities except that it doesn’t get Harriet in trouble at school. That lack of positively reflecting on Harriet’s reflection—her natural state, mind you—is problematic. All we know of Harriet’s natural state is that it causes her to not like school but also keeps her out of trouble in school. When that reflection merges with the lion’s reflection, the end result is that Harriet finds a fierceness within limits that helps her have fun and confidence without getting into trouble, but without pulling out the positive qualities of Harriet’s natural self the message that comes across is muddled.

Perhaps some of the muddling has to do with the translation of Harriet’s Reflections from French into English. Anytime a book is translated, it loses something in the translation. Here, though, it’s more in the pacing of the book. The whole theme of the book is finding a balance between the two reflections, but the book resolves this quickly and abruptly with the line “They eventually got used to each other.” How? Why? It’s not terribly well-developed that Harriet’s self-reflection was scared of her lion-reflection. Using the “and one thing led to another” line is bad storytelling. If you’re telling the story, tell me how one thing led to another!

There was a germ of genius in this book, but I don’t think that it comes out—at least in this English-language translation. There are a lot of other books on self-worth and one’s inner life that handle the topic with greater clarity. I don’t think the problematic aspects of the book are intentional, but they keep it from being the type of book that I would recommend.