Reviews for Shadows

Booklist Reviews 2010 June #1
First-novelist West begins the Books of Elsewhere series with an old house and a curious girl. Eleven-year-old Olive had been living with her nerdy mathematician parents in a series of nondescript apartments, and the whole family is happy to move into a Victorian house, complete with furniture, that's for sale at a comfortable price. Once ensconced, Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody become as obsessed with their math as ever, leaving Olive to her own devices. The devices, as it turns out, are odd paintings and a pair of glasses that allow her to venture inside the art to Elsewhere. And though they may not qualify as devices, there are several talking cats wandering about as well. The plot, as well as the character of Olive, will seem familiar to readers of light fantasy, but West does put her own nice spin on things. Most fun are the talking cats--Horatio, Leopold, and Harvey--whose commentary keeps things fresh. By book's end, Olive has made some inroads into the mysteries of her new home, but it's a very large house. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Olive finds a pair of spectacles that let her enter the paintings in her family's decrepit Victorian mansion. There she finds cats who aren't quite feline and late homeowners who aren't quite dead. Even at their most dire--and darkly illustrated--Olive's circumstances are too fantastical to be really frightening; naive Olive figures it all out in time to regain control. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 May #2
Preoccupied parents, a solitary young girl, talking cats--sound familiar? Unfortunately for debut author West, not only has this been done before, it's been done better. Still, the premise is intriguing. Magical spectacles enable the wearer to enter the worlds captured in paintings created by an evil, long-dead wizard. "Captured" isn't just a figure of speech: At least one young boy has been turned into a painted replica of himself. Another painting, that of the wizard's (also dead) granddaughter, comes creepily to life. In general, though, the action is sluggish and the ominous atmosphere contrived. Characterization is skimpy at best. Olive's parents adore math. Olive doesn't. The cats are pompous, imaginative and martial, respectively. Ironically enough, it's not just the supernatural effects that fail to convince. Would parents, even those utterly obsessed with their own intelligence and interests, really leave their 11-year-old home alone overnight? The fact that they do precipitates Olive's final confrontation with the wicked wizard. Unfortunately readers probably won't care much about who wins nor about the possibility of volume two. (Fantasy. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 May #5

Poet West's debut novel is a quirky and clever beginning to the Books of Elsewhere series. The Dunwoodys, "a pair of more than slightly dippy mathematicians," and their 11-year-old daughter, Olive, have just moved into an old Victorian house. Olive has learned to be independent, given her parents' aloofness ("Her persistently lackluster grades in math had led her parents to believe that she was some kind of genetic aberration"). She explores the house's eccentricities and discovers that, by donning a pair of spectacles, she can enter the house's many unsettling paintings. Inside one, she encounters nine-year-old Morton, who brings to her attention the secrets that the house and its late owner are keeping. With the help of three talking house cats, Olive works to patch together clues to save the painting-dwellers from their dark fate. The house is as much a character as are Olive, Morton, and her family, and a wicked sense of humor tempers the book's creepiness. A suspenseful plot and insight into childhood loneliness--handily amplified by Bernatene's moody and dramatically lit b&w illustrations--will have readers anxiously awaiting the next book. Ages 9-11. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 May

Gr 4-6--Olive Dunwoody and her mathematically minded parents move into an old Victorian home complete with the deceased owner's furnishings. Olive first notices that something is wrong when she can't take the paintings off the wall. She sees things moving in them. Then, while rummaging through the drawers, she finds a pair of glasses and tries them on. Olive can now enter the paintings and talk to the people in them. She is warned by a talking cat named Horatio not to spend too much time in there or to lose the glasses. She meets Morton in a painting and learns that he was forced into it because of a conversation he overheard. Olive is determined to find out more about the house and its history. But who can she trust? Her neighbors, the talking cats, or the people in the paintings? The expressive black-and-white illustrations contribute to the overall spooky mood of the story. The plot moves quickly as Olive pieces together clues. Recommend this book to reluctant readers and fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002).--Samantha Larsen Hastings, West Jordan Public Library, UT

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