The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West
Released June 2010.
A delightful romp of a book that combines mystery and fantasy, this book is filled with laughs, tension and plenty to discover. After Old Ms. McMartin dies alone in her house, Olive and her mathematician parents move in. The house is Victorian and filled with antiques and paintings. Olive notices that the paintings are strange, but it isn’t until after she is warned of danger by a talking cat and finds some special spectacles that she learns the secret of the paintings. By wearing the glasses, she can enter the world of the paintings. But the mysteries go far deeper than that as does the pleasure of this read. I will leave it to you to make your own discoveries in The Shadows.
Debut author, West, has written a book that is seasoned and tightly woven. She has woven the tension of a good mystery with magical touches that make this book sparkle. West’s writing is something special. She creates great images with her descriptions throughout the book. One of my favorites is on page 20:
The basement of the old house was made mostly of stone, with some patches of packed dirt poking through, and other patches of crumbling cement trying to hide the dirt. The effect was like an ancient, stale birthday cake frosted by a blindfolded five-year-old.
Sigh. It captures so much not only about the basement it is describing, but also the atmosphere of the entire novel. The above quote is from the advanced reader copy of the book.
Olive is a protagonist who is very human, often lonely, and at the same time clever, funny and just the type of person one would want for a friend. The villains in the book are handsomely evil and thoroughly enjoy it. The dangers are grippingly written, helping to add to pleasure of this light read that has wonderful dark moments too. This is a book to be raced through and then read again to see all of the details and foreshadowing.
This book would work well as a classroom read aloud or a bedtime read with older children, but the best way to read it would be under the covers with a flashlight! Get this into the hands of Coraline fans who will find a similar heroine to enjoy here. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Check out the trailer for the book:
Reviewed from ARC received from Penguin.