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The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 1

Review

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 1

Eleven-year-old Olive Dunwoody leads a lonely life. She is blessed to have the love of her parents, but they are very dedicated mathematicians who work at the university, so she doesn’t have much in common with them. She also doesn’t appear to have much luck making friends. The kids at school and in the apartment building never want to include her, even when the teachers insist. And as soon as Olive steps away, they seem to forget all about her.

With her record for making friends (or the lack thereof), Olive isn’t expecting any different results when her parents buy the ancient mansion on Linden Street and they move into the new neighborhood. It will be just the three of them in this huge house, and the loneliness looms in all of the strange corners and empty rooms. It must have been similar for the previous owner; old Ms. McMartin lived there all by herself, along with her three cats. That is, until she died, right there in the mansion. 

Olive does find parts of the house interesting, such as the zillions of paintings scattered on the walls, and the closets and drawers filled with old clothes and various items, including a pair of old glasses. But other locations are a bit creepy, like the gloomy basement where she feels like she’s being watched, and the one painting in the hall where she could swear she sees a white shape moving through the trees. And then things really start to get weird.

Olive gets a visitor in the middle of the night. One of old Ms. McMartin’s cats slips in through her bedroom window and introduces himself. His name is Horatio, and he comes with a warning: something in the house doesn’t want them there. And then Olive discovers that when she puts on those old glasses, she can actually climb into the paintings. But Olive, beware. There’s something evil lurking inside those paintings --- and it wants you gone.

Jacqueline West displays her writing talents beautifully in her debut novel. She has dived into her vivid imagination, dragging out an outrageous adventure filled with creepy bad guys and clever mysteries. She has a sneaky sense of humor that unexpectedly oozes out in just the right places. Olive and the three cats are full of spunk, enthusiasm and personality, and by the end of the book, they feel like good friends. West also has a gift for description that pulls the reader right into the story. Another bonus is the beautiful illustrations scattered throughout; Poly Bernatene has added a special visual treat that enhances the reading experience.

THE SHADOWS is creative, exciting, hilarious, spooky, mysterious, adventurous, and heaps of fun, all wrapped between two covers. Readers will be looking forward to the second installment in the Books of Elsewhere series.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on June 14, 2011

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Volume 1
by Jacqueline West

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2011
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • ISBN-10: 0142418722
  • ISBN-13: 9780142418727