The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows (Volume 1)

Author: Jacqueline West

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers



I actually read this book and the sequel that had just come out in the 3rd grade, and I remembered just absolutely loving it. So for my first review, I decided to reread the first two and read the rest. I just want to say, I am in middle school now, and I still LOVED this book as much as I remembered.

This story follows Olive Dunwoody, a young girl who just moved into an old, spooky house, and is trying to conquer the “paintings” of the previous family that resides there, along with the three cats that the owners left and a painted boy named Morton. During this time, Olive finds an old pair of enchanted spectacles that allow her to go into (and come out of) the various paintings left there by the previous owner. The catch? Not all paintings are as nice as they look from the outside.

This is one of those books that is like, everything is solved, but there is still fifty pages left, also, I’m so tired, but just one more chapter…

This story truly lets your imagination run wild with its creative plot and vivid imagery. The Shadows is a wonderfully written book, with a suspenseful plot that will make you want to read the next one pronto.

I think the thing that would make you want to buy this book in a bookstore (other than the summary on the back) was the first line, “Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.”  Solely because it raises so many questions. Who is Ms. McMartin, and how did she die? Did somebody murder her? I feel like having a good first paragraph (or line) is essential to making someone want to read your book. It peaks the readers’ interest (as it did mine) and made me want to know what happened.

The last thing I want to point out is the way it is written and all the similes Jacqueline West uses. This paragraph:

She was getting familiar with this place. It felt almost natural to trot across a foggy field, up a painted street, to a house where somebody you knew lived. This must have been what it’s like to visit a friend. Not that Morton was a friend, exactly. But he was someone to talk to, and he didn’t make Olive feel nervous or awkward. In a secret, selfish way, Olive was glad Morton was stuck in one spot. He couldn’t leave or change or hide, like Horatio, when she needed him. He was a bit like your favorite page in a book, one that you go back to and read to yourself over and over again, knowing that it will always be the same.”

I feel this is wonderfully written, and I love the simile at the end. So, if Jacqueline ever reads this, kudos for that.

Well, I could give much more praise for this book, but I think I’ll leave it here. I will be wiritng the reviews for the sequels as soon as possible.

-Emma Ellisor

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