Title: The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)
Author: Jacqueline West
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.
When I saw the book trailer for this one I definitely wanted to read it. I thought it looked really fun especially for the tween set. So when I saw our library had it in the audio version I grabbed it. After convincing my daughter that we should listen to it, I popped it into the CD player, and we began to listen. In the end we all ended up enjoying it.
The Characters: Olive was a cute girl that I think a lot of tween girls could relate to. She isn’t this “has it all together knows what she’s doing girl.” Most of the time she’s scared and uncertain. She second guesses herself over and over. That’s why I liked her! Teacher middle school – I see a lot of girls just like her. Olive would be a girl I could easily imagine in my class. At the same time though, she had this fantastic strength running through her. As scared as the events in the story are for her, she doesn’t back down. She pulls all her nerve together and steps up. Olive always looked at what was going on, came up with a plan and carried it out.
The characters that I really think stole the show were the three cats – Horatio, Harvey and Leopold. Those cats were so funny! Without them the story would not have been as strong or fun. We would laugh a lot at their actions and thoughts. The reader did a great job with each of their voices bringing them even more alive. I’m so glad they were a part of the story. Not only did they help Olive, they also helped make the story fun.
The Plot – The story builds pretty quickly which it has to because it’s a pretty short book. It isn’t long before Olive is pulled into the secrets of her new house. From their it builds up nicely with some good twists and turns making you realize you can’t trust any of your first thoughts – or can you??? It has a healthy dose of mystery along with the spookiness, so that really keeps the reader guessing. The final climatic scene really builds the tension nicely. You the scene is going to have a great conclusion, but you aren’t sure how Olive is going to pull it off. The scariness of the plot was just right for the tween set. Suspenseful, a bit spooky and lots of last minute escapes.
The reader: She did a great job bringing the story to life – especially the cats like I said. All the the voices were well done and different. Her pacing was perfect and over all it was great. I did occasionally get annoyed by the voice of Olive because at points it would be a little too little girlish. Thankfully she didn’t keep that all the time. It would just come and go.
Final thought: Perfect spooky mystery for the tween set.
Best stick-with-you image: The final scene when Olive was being talked to in the dark
Best for readers who: Like a little spookiness
Best for ages: 8-11