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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1)
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Eleven-year-old Olive Dunwoody leads a lonely life. She is blessed to have the love of her parents, but they are very dedicated mathematicians who work at the university, so she doesn't have much in common with them. She also doesn't appear to have much luck making friends. The kids at school and in the apartment building never want to include her, even when the teachers insist. And as soon as Olive steps away, they seem to forget all about her.

With her record for making friends (or the lack thereof), Olive isn't expecting any different results when her parents buy the ancient mansion on Linden Street and they move into the new neighborhood. It will be just the three of them in this huge house, and the loneliness looms in all of the strange corners and empty rooms. It must have been similar for the previous owner; old Ms. McMartin lived there all by herself, along with her three cats. That is, until she died, right there in the mansion.

Olive does find parts of the house interesting, such as the zillions of paintings scattered on the walls, and the closets and drawers filled with old clothes and various items, including a pair of old glasses. But other locations are a bit creepy, like the gloomy basement where she feels like she's being watched, and the one painting in the hall where she could swear she sees a white shape moving through the trees. And then things really start to get weird.

Olive gets a visitor in the middle of the night. One of old Ms. McMartin's cats slips in through her bedroom window and introduces himself. His name is Horatio, and he comes with a warning: something in the house doesn't want them there. And then Olive discovers that when she puts on those old glasses, she can actually climb into the paintings. But Olive, beware. There's something evil lurking inside those paintings --- and it wants you gone.

Jacqueline West displays her writing talents beautifully in her debut novel. She has dived into her vivid imagination, dragging out an outrageous adventure filled with creepy bad guys and clever mysteries. She has a sneaky sense of humor that unexpectedly oozes out in just the right places. Olive and the three cats are full of spunk, enthusiasm and personality, and by the end of the book, they feel like good friends. West also has a gift for description that pulls the reader right into the story. Another bonus is the beautiful illustrations scattered throughout; Poly Bernatene has added a special visual treat that enhances the reading experience.

THE SHADOWS is creative, exciting, hilarious, spooky, mysterious, adventurous, and heaps of fun, all wrapped between two covers. Readers will be looking forward to the second installment in the Books of Elsewhere series.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
The Dunwoody family move into a fixer upper Victorian mansion left vacant when elderly Ms. McMartin died. Eleven year old Olive finds the house odd, but her mathematical minded parents see nothing out of the ordinary starting with the inability to remove the strange drawings from the wall, but upon a closer look she sees things moving inside the paintings.

Looking around the house, Olive finds glasses that she puts on for fun. Instead of blur, she realizes she enter the pictures and travel in a realm that sort of looks like her natural one, but seems shadowy and too quiet to the stunned tweener. Horatio the cat warns her not to stay too long in their world and never lose the glasses if she is on this side of the frame. Olive also meets raging Morton who claims he is from her side of the divide, but was thrown into the picture world because he knew too much. As she learns more about the house and its contents, Olive fears something evil wants to keep her silent in order for her not to reveal what the darkness wants to do to the light.

With illustrations from Poly Bernatene enhancing the strong haunted house mystery, Jacqueline West provides an exhilarating middle school age tale. Fast-paced, young readers will want to join courageous Olive as she investigates the goings-on inside the painting world and the house, but is unsure who to trust with her growing concerns especially in light of her parents thinking logically that she is playing make believe.

Harriet Klausner
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Last night I finished up THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE: THE SHADOWS, and ohmigosh it was good.

It's one of those books where the adult in me thinks, (cue high-pitched nasally adult voice) "Oh, I really like this story. What nice atmosphere. How unique," and the kid in me is like, (cue my real voice) "Ahhh! That's scary. Wow--cool. I want to do that! She did what? The end? Where's the next book!?!?"

I was lucky enough to interview the author, Jacqueline West, here: [...].

THE SHADOWS is a fast paced read set in Olive Dunwoody's new home--a crumbling Victorian house brimming with rooms to explore and curiosities to discover. Her slightly absent minded, but brilliantly (and hilariously) mathematical parents have no clue what kinds of secrets their home holds. Olive, however, finds herself unraveling a dark and deadly mystery, aided only by three cats and a bratty boy.

Atmosphere: Really old house with hidden rooms, paintings you can travel through, cool old spectacles, creepy basements, that prickle at the back of your neck when you know something's not right, overgrown backyards, nosey neighbors, and cats with attitude. In a word: awesome.

Language: Jacqueline West is also an award winning poet, and she has this beautiful knack for clear, concise, and completely unique description. There's also lots of witty dialogue that kept me smiling and laughing throughout the book.

If you're looking for a fun Middle Grade read, you should seriously check this book out. There's also a pretty cool website for the book that includes sample chapters and clips from the audiobook:[...].
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Apparently somewhere along the lines I "graduated" to Young Adult and figured I was too old for Middle Grade and that was that. Here I've spent years thinking I was too good for Middle Grade and let me tell you, I have been COMPLETELY missing out!

The Shadows was the absolute perfect book to reintroduce myself to Middle Grade. It was chock full of magical realism. I mean, we have talking cats, magical glasses, pictures that are actually portals, and a large creepy old house.

Olive is an awesome protagonist. She's not your typical girl-who-can-everything, but instead, she's not so good at math though her parents are both math lovers and geniuses, she can never seem to remember where she leaves things, and she's a little clumsy. All these "flaws" make her a perfect person for the story too. It just wouldn't be the same if you had some fearless go-getter going about the same adventures.
The talking cats are also fantastic characters. I love all their different personalities, but I don't want to spoil them too much for you...
Olive's parents are also great. I'm not sure if this happens in a lot of MG as it's been quite some time since I read any before this one, but they were actually around. You barely ever see that in YA and it was a nice little change of pace. Plus, they're adorable. Their romantic talk is all mathy and weird, but also fun to read. Also, they're not evil parents or anything of the sort. They're nice parents any kid would love to have without being giant pushovers either.

The whole idea of the story was great too. The idea of life inside paintings is magical and Jacqueline does a fantastic job with it. Also, the mystery was done rather well. I was constantly wondering who I could trust, so I can only imagine how Olive must have felt! The pacing was perfect. I was never bored, but I also wasn't overwhelmed by action action action.

Final Thoughts: I absolutely adored The Shadows and I look forward to reading the rest of the series soon. This book has the perfect balance of action/adventure and mystery. Plus, talking cats. You can't say no to talking cats.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am 8 yrs old and I loved this book. I can't wait for the next Book of Elsewhere to come out in July. My mom and I were reading it together, but it was so good that I snuck off when my mom was watching the Super Bowl and finished reading it myself.

Even though it was the author's first book, I think that she did a wonderful job!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was first reviewed on Kindle Nation Daily Kids Corner.

The Books of Elsewhere THE SHADOWS By: Jacqueline West
Student - Yashvi S. 5th grade

Teacher - Julie Treadwell

SUMMARY- The Shadows is a book about a girl named Olive who moves to a creepy mansion which belongs to a mysterious family called called McMartins' she finds that there is something peculiar going on she discovers that there are 3 talking cats and finds strange paintings that won't come off the wall, she also finds strange spectacles that can magically let her transport in to those strange but very odd paintings, she also makes a new friend named Morton from the painting but Horatio one of the cats just puts him in another painting she finds out that the McMartin family wasn't just any old family they are..... read this fantastic tale to find out what happens next. But I will tell you one secret those cats are witches' familiars.

Educational- I think this book is educational because it teaches you that you shouldn't trust people with you're secrets unless they're sworn to secrecy. And that you should never buy an old house without making sure the neighbors don't suspect the last owner.

Entertaining- This book is entertaining because it's like a big mystery where she thinks some people or shall I say paintings are nice well it turns out people or paintings aren't who you think they might be.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was read aloud to my 8 and 9 yo and I have to say kept all our interest and we all looked forward to the next chapter. The story is so well written, the characters are well done and mesh perfectly with the plot. There is enough clues and explaination to let younger ones follow but keep us all guessing. The only true problem with the story- and it is so tiny and also part of the appeal- is it was spooky. (The description of Olive venturing into the basement is spot on for every kid's fear and easily related to.) Don't let the horror part of the book set you off from a great read but be aware if the kids say "Mom can you leave the light on?" you will know why.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
The other reviews of this book are a bit over the top. This is not an exhilarating work of genius. It is, however, a very engaging tale with a fine cast of characters and a light and restrained touch.

Olive is a fine protagonist. She has spunk, and, unlike Lou Grant, I like spunk. She keeps a level head, she is alert and perceptive. She is a fine character to root for. Her parents are vague, but in an amusing rather than dismissive way. I'm a little tired of modern books where the parents are distant and sort of jerky, for no good reason. Here, the parents care about Olive in their distracted way, and she is very tolerant of them in a bemused sort of way. I think this would amuse kid readers without making anyone the fool or the bad guy.

Olive's "haunted" house is populated by three cats who serve as her dramatic and comedic foils. They are actually pretty funny in a bantering sort of way, and are not either cutesy or overwritten.

The villains are mostly off stage and should not be too unnerving for a young reader. The scary parts are actually pretty brief, and while they are effective they aren't inappropriately intense. The overall vibe of the book is actually more of an atmospheric mystery/adventure, not horror. It's also nice to have fantasy/magic that is manageable, without a lot of world building and magic systems, or overly complex exposition of the plot or the haunted world.

The general quality of the writing is also well above the "serviceable" level. Ms. West has a nice touch for dialogue, and some of her descriptive passages are well above the usual for this kind of book. So, it's nice to be able to recommend this book as well written.

There seem to be a number of books coming out with strong girl leads and good writing. I would be happy to put this in a category with (but a little below), Kate Milford's "The Boneshaker, or Vivian French's "Robe of Skulls", or R.L. LaFever's Theodosia books, or Helen Strickler's "Spellbinder", or P.J. Bracegirdle's "Joy of Spooking" series; all of which feature strong heroines and quality writing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you love mysteries, talking cats, magical spectacles, and the idea of traveling into the world of a painting, you'll love the Land of Elsewhere. In The Shadows, 11 year old Olive Dunwoody, moves into an old mansion filled with paintings that give her the creeps. Then she finds a pair of old spectacles that give her the power to go into the paintings. There she meets Morton a little boy trapped in a painting by "the bad man." With the help of three peculiar talking cats she works to unravel the mystery of the man and this strange house.
We loved Olive. She is an adventurous, curious and brave girl who never gives up even when things go wrong and get pretty scary.
We also loved how J. West crafted the story. She used great verbs like rummaged and rifled and she used great similies like when she compared going down into the basement to jumping into a cold pool of water.
The cats were great too. We loved how they could talk. They are funny, especially, Harvey.
Throughout the book you get lots of clues and hints and you get to help figure things out along with Olive. The book kept us on the edge of our seats. It was a page turner with lots of surprises. We felt like we were in the book ourselves.
This is why we give this book a full five stars!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I purchased this book for my 10yr old daughter, going into 5th grade---she LOVED the 43 Old Cemetary Rd series (perfect for a bit younger--look them up) and I thought this looked similar.
She cant get enough of it, a little scary with suspense but not bad... she loves it and tells me more of the book as she continues along. She is not finished with this yet but is already looking forward to reading the sequel.
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