The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows

by Jacqueline West
ages: 9+
First sentence: “Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.”
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Eleven-year-old Olivia, the daughter of two absent-minded mathematicians, has lived her whole life in boring apartments. That is, until her parents by a creepy, old, drafty, mysterious stone house on Linden Street. It’s not only got character, it’s got paintings that Olivia swears are moving.

Not to mention the talking cat.

Soon, Olivia discovers a pair of old spectacles (great word, that), and finds that she can climb into the paintings. Once there, she discovers something more sinister: not only are these paintings in Elsewhere real, the people were once real people. They’ve been trapped there. And, inadvertently, Olivia has let free the person who trapped all these people — including her new friend, a 9-year-old boy named Morton. How is she going to set things to rights?

The jacket flap compared this one to Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl, and I have to agree: there is the same dark undertones, same sense of foreboding that you get with Gaiman, and the same sense of the unusual you get with Dahl (not to mention the same underwhelming parental figures). But it also has a feel of it’s own: it won the Middle Grade Science Fiction/Fantasy Cybils for 2010 because they liked the pacing and humor and world building. I have to agree: I read this book quickly not just because it was a breeze to get through, but because I didn’t want to put it down.

And I can’t wait to see what other adventures Olivia and Morton will have.

3 thoughts on “The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows

  1. My daughter was SO happy when this won, since it was a book she actually liked, which is so hard to find. I liked the second book as well but I haven't gotten a copy of The Second Spy yet.


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