Meanwhile, it's review time, and once again I am re-posting a review from Sacramento Book Review of a simply wonderful book, The Shadows. This is Volume I in a series called The Books of Elsewhere, and I was so absorbed in the fantastical world Jacqueline West created, that I can hardly wait for Volume II.
Dial Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 241 pages
Olive Dunwoody’s mathematician parents are in an abstract world of their own. They don’t notice – as Olive does – that the old house they’ve moved in is creepy. Olive feels as if something in the house is watching her. One night, a large orange cat comes into her bedroom and begins to talk. In one of the paintings, Olive can see a distant figure running back and forth. Putting on a pair of spectacles she found in a dresser drawer, she sees the paintings come alive, and she can enter them. In one, she meets a frightened little boy and begins to learn of the house’s history. Before long, Olive too, is running for her life.
I found The Shadows mesmerizing, partly due to the story itself; partly due to Jacqueline West’s remarkable writing. This is a tale of terror that makes you laugh. West’s imagery captures plot, setting and character in a simple turn of phrase. Olive’s quirky personality makes her a protagonist one can only look forward to meeting again in following books. Poly Berntene’s illustrations capture the house’s musty gloom and danger as well as Olive’s winsome spirit. A brilliant book all around.