Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review - The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)

Author: Jacqueline West
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Release June 15, 2010)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating:5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there’s something odd about the place—not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets—and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper.

As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It’s up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.

One of my reading goals this year is to read 25 books by Debut Authors as part of the Debut Authors Challenge being hosted by The Story Siren (Kristi) over here. Part of the thing I love with the Debut Challenge is it introduces you to some great new books and authors. And this is no exception.

This book has one of my favorite first lines. "Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead." I can imagine being 10 and loving that line and wanting to read more which of course I did. The story is about Olive who is a little different from her family. Her parents are genius mathematicians but instead of a knack for math, Olive is the creative one in the family. After moving into her new home, an old home filled with interesting furniture and paintings that seem to be permanently attached to the walls, Olive discovers some unusal things about the house. First, something seems odd about paintings, then there are the talking cats, and finally Olive discovers old glasses that allow her to enter and exit the pictures. There are things that don’t just seem right and Olive is going to find out the answers to her questions.

I loved this book. It was well thought out, and the story was well developed. The first few chapters may move a little slowly as West sets up the background for her book, but it is definitely worth it. The author does a fabulous job of revealing just enough of the story to keep the reader moving along but wondering exactly who should be trusted and who shouldn’t. Olive is a likeable protagonist and I enjoyed her curiosity and how she went about trying to put all the pieces together. There were some scary moments in the story which are just scary enough without being too frightening but I would say that if you have a child who scares easily you may not want to have him/her read this. And though the main character is a girl, I think boys should like the book equally well.

Author West provides the reader with a satisfying ending to her story which allows it to be a stand-alone novel but leaves things open just enough so that the reader can hope for future adventures from Olive, Morton, and Horatio. This is one book that I plan to get into the hands of as many Middle Grade students as I can.


  1. This looks like a great read that I'll be adding to my kid's library of books.

  2. I just got this book!! My 7 yo DD and I are dying to read it. Thank you for a great review!


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~