An animal adventure with setting in the transition from the ice age to the present epoch, Shadowshine, with all the philosophical musings of its quirky yet remarkable characters, is a story of perseverance and of camaraderie, of the battle between good and wickedness, and of strong and lovable players who never give up. And by an open-minded, intellectual approach, these players (known as the forest-folk) begin to uncover a dangerous flaw in the human species, the absence of its own identity when face-to-face with nature.
About the Author
Conservationist and retired medical doctor (pathology), Johnny Armstrong and his wife Karen and Opal (k-nine) live within a Nature Conservancy protected old-growth forest and woodland near Ruston, Louisiana. Shadowshine is his first novel.
Zak, the main character of Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure, is a possum who lives in a prehistoric forest. Because of his unique ability to speak in both the tongues of the rodents and “forest folk," he serves as a liaison between animal species. Known as “The Poet," Zak has the important job of presiding over animal wedding ceremonies. On his journey through the prehistoric forest with his wise bobcat friend, Sena, Zak hears troubling news. A mouse and then an owl warn him that humans, new creatures to the forest, are setting fires that are burning down the trees. In an attempt to stop the malicious acts of Mungo, the leader of these destructive humans, before they reach his home, Zak sets off on a quest to get help from the animals of the North. On his adventures, he learns many lessons and meets new animal friends, but he also becomes lost and faces many dangers in the unknown regions of the forest. Will Zak be able to triumph over the perils he faces? Will he be able to stop Mungo before he burns down the entire forest? Opinion: Shadowshine is a very unique book. It is set in the period when humans first appeared on earth, but it speaks to the environmental issues of today. The author paints such vivid pictures of Zak’s animal friends and their surroundings that I sometimes felt as if I were traipsing through the forests with him. This book explores several thought-provoking themes. It discusses evolution, emphasizing that an acceptance of death is necessary for the functioning of the food chain and for overall equilibrium in the natural world. It stresses the power of communication, coexistence, and perseverance. Last, it exemplifies the power of unity when facing a common enemy. To me, this book is especially valuable because it addresses the pressing issue of human impact on the natural world from the perspective of the animals most affected by it. It has a message everyone should hear, but much of the vocabulary is likely over the heads of most children and even some young adults. Therefore, I recommend this book primarily to adults who have a passion for the natural world and are interested in an allegorical story about human impact on the environment.
Reviewed by Rachel Dehning for Reader Views (11/19) “Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure” by Johnny Armstrong centers around Zak, a philosophical poet-possum. Zak is usually seen with his friend Sena, a bobcat who is wise like Zak. Growing up, Zak was raised by rodents, which has resulted in him now being the only bilingual member in their community of forest-dwellers, bestowing on him extra responsibilities and pressure among his peers. Word has gotten out that the foreign beings known as the “sans-pelage” have been committing crimes of heat toward the animals forest homes, with the malicious Mungo being the main culprit. It’s only a matter of time before their dastardly deeds reach to Zak’s neck of the woods, so Zak volunteers to head out of his comforting homeland to the north to seek out help from legends and strangers. Zak will face many perils on his quest, problems dealing with hunger and different situations that will test his ability to survive, but if he’s successful, it will mean everything to the animals. With the help of The Architect and his friend Elbon the skunk, maybe this trip won’t be “Inconceivable!” Armstrong, a retired medical doctor and conservationist, has written a book very much in favor of forest preservation and human’s involvement in deforestation, and has compared it to how it affects the animals living there. To present all of this information in an entertaining way, he has created an animated story with animals as the characters, but the story isn’t one that is necessarily recommended for children to read as the content reads at a more advanced level than a child would normally read or understand. Plus, some references in the story are geared toward the evolution of animals (depending on what you believe on that topic). “Shadowshine” is worth the read, especially if you are a fan of conservation and heroes on quests to save their homelands. I believe that Armstrong was successful in getting his conservative point across about caring for animals in the forest, mostly because they aren’t rational thinkers like us humans, so they don’t even have the option of taking away our homeland, like we do to theirs. The style of writing for this story was done well, but personally for me, there were parts in the story that took too long to make sense or to keep my attention. That being said, I believe in the purpose of this book and wish to see everyone/thing living in harmony and adding a quest from a possum as the storyline makes it more interesting overall. In conclusion, “Shadowshine: An Animal Adventure” by Johnny Armstrong is a well-written book that makes the readers think about what they are reading, and hopefully be able to apply it to their daily lives.