As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 22, 2011

THE SHADOWS by Jacqueline West, 2010

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1)When eleven-year-old Olive moves into the crumbling old mansion on Linden Street, she's right to think there's something weird about the place, especially the walls covered in creepy antique paintings. But when she finds a pair of old-fashioned glasses in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet -- She can travel inside these paintings to Elsewhere, a world that's strangely quiet . . . and eerily sinister. Olive soon finds that Elsewhere has secrets to hide--and the most annoying of them is Morton, a small boy with a big temper. As he and Olive form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself caught 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 her to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good. (Amazon)

Review by Laura Madsen, mom, veterinarian and writer

THE SHADOWS, a middle-grade paranormal novel, opens with a great line: “Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.” The decedent leaves behind a huge old pile of a mansion, and as her nearest relative has just died in Shanghai of “a severe allergic reaction to a bowl of turtle and arsenic soup,” the house is put on the market. Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody, a pair of university mathematicians, buy the house and move in with their eleven-year-old daughter, Olive. Olive’s parents are loving, but tend to consider her slow as she hasn’t inherited their mathematical genius.

Olive is largely left to her own devices and begins to explore the mansion. The house is full of spooky noises, dusty cobwebs, and creepy paintings. “Olive had never been anywhere—not even the doctor’s office, not even gym class—that made her feel so out of place, or so alone.” (The reference to feeling out of place in gym class resonates strongly with me!)

Paintings hang all through the house and Mrs. Dunwoody finds they are impossible to remove from the walls. Olive notices a flicker of movement in one painting, a sinister moonlit forest scene. Later, while playing in an upstairs bedroom for antique jewelry, lace and gloves, she finds a pair of old spectacles. She puts them on and all the paintings come alive: Grecian girls dancing, men mortaring a stone wall, a woman serving tea—and a scared child ducking for cover in the sinister forest.

Olive peers closer and closer at the canvas, and discovers that while wearing the enchanted spectacles she can push her way into the scene. After safety-testing with her teddy bear, she hops through the portal into the sinister moonlit forest. She locates the frightened child, a boy named Morton, who explains his fear of the Bad Man.

Olive continues to investigate the mysteries of the house: Who built it? Who is the Bad Man? Who created the living paintings? Where did Morton come from? What is buried in the creepy basement?

I won’t spoil the story by answering the questions, but suffice it to say that the story is enjoyable and should appeal to readers of middle-grade fantasies like HARRY POTTER, SEPTIMUS HEAP or LEVEN THUMPS. Ms. West writes with an authentic, entertaining voice.

THE SHADOWS is the first book in a new series, The Books of Elsewhere.

Market: Middle Grade (fantasy/ paranormal/ spooky)
Language: none
Sensuality: none
Violence: mild/moderate (creepy bad guys, witchcraft, graves in the basement)
Mature Themes: good vs. evil, witchcraft, betrayal

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Jacqueline West


Anonymous said...

This sounds SO GOOD!!! I love the idea of other worlds hidden in our own. Thanks for the wonderful review, Laura! I will definitely add this series to my To Read list.

Amy Finnegan {} said...

I agree that this sounds really great. I'm ALWAYS looking for good middle grade books for my 11 year old daughter. I bet she'd eat this book for breakfast :)