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Behind the Bookcase Hardcover – October 9, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 9, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-7-When her grandmother dies, Sarah's family spends a week traveling by car from California to get the dusty and smelly house cleaned up and ready for sale. Sarah's mother has no fond memories of her childhood home or her mother, and the dark corners and strange noises spook timid Sarah. When she finds an unfinished letter written by the grandmother she never knew that refers to "strange things happening behind the bookcase," she is curious and shimmies the bookcase from against the wall and travels to a strange land called Scotopia, where she meets a talking cat, a boy with half a face, a walking hand, and all sorts of strange creatures. This fantasy takes the creepiness of Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002), mixes it liberally with the surrealism of Alice in Wonderland, and adds a dash of Edward Gorey through moody black-and-white illustrations. Readers who are patient with the seeming randomness will soon be rewarded with a suspenseful, magical adventure that, while there is resolution, ends with a promise of a sequel. Sarah and her brother bicker constantly and initially work against each other but soon join forces to prevent the destruction of both our world and Scotopia.-Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

About the Author

MARK STEENSLAND became a journalist at the age of 18, writing about movies for such magazines as Prevue and American Cinematographer. He has also directed, and produced numerous award-winning films that have played in festivals around the world. Behind the Bookcase is his first novel.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 650L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385740719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385740715
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,241,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I grabbed this book last week because I was intrigued by the cover and book jacket snippets. Sarah arrives at the home of her *deceased* Grandma Winnie, who has had a strange relationship with Sarah's mother and been considered an "eccentric," or a little bit more, for some time. The initial part of the book is a great creepy table-setter, which makes it a shame that the story moves on quickly. Sarah finds her way into a land called Scotopia, where shadows come from, kicking off a "Through the Looking Glass" type story that is often done in YA literature.

The story works well; there is no character who is playing their full hand and it's hard not to feel uneasy (in that good, ghost story kind of way) as you follow Sarah's adventure. Most importantly, some of the settings and characters are downright creepy. Kelly Murphy's illustrations appear throughout the story to establish a darker mood, and I was certain I'd keep reading as soon as I saw the image of a "sentinel." The story pushes on fast and fantastical; I was a bit frustrated, as I like to linger in strange places, but the plot is intriguing and the hectic pace doesn't change that the pieces of the story are easy to enjoy.

I've read this with one student, who enjoyed it greatly. She liked most of the settings and characters encountered and was eager to talk about creepy moments in the story. I think it's a great fit in a classroom library as a book that is scary without being too dark. For parents, I'd recommend reading ahead through a library before buying for your child. I think it's fairly palatable, but your child's reaction may vary.

I do have two quibbles with the story; the first is that Sarah feels like a vehicle for the events more than a person sometimes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Seriously, publishers really need to stop promoting books by relatively unknown authors by saying they are like very popular and/or classic and beloved books. It’s almost always an unfair comparison that raises expectations to unrealistic levels.

This book is only like “Coraline” or “Alice in Wonderland” in the broadest sense of type – a fantasy story in which a child magically enters a fantasy world.

This does not at all mean it isn’t a good story, it is! It simply means I believe it should be allowed to be enjoyed and appreciated on its own merits, without expectations it will equal books that have reached top-of-the-class status.

Those who have seen my reading lists over the years have probably noticed that there are two kinds of books I am automatically drawn to, and will snatch up when I come across – time travel stories and kids who magically are transported to a fantasy world.

“Behind the Bookcase” is a solid effort of the second type. My childhood self would have grabbed this one, if it’d been around at the time, and would have enjoyed it.

Finding a secret passage to a magical, fantasy world in your house? Absolutely a favorite premise of mine.

“Truth be told: the place looked creepy. Sarah simply couldn’t believe that anyone she knew-let alone someone from her very own family-could have anything to do with such a house. Never in her life had she seen such a disaster.”

‘”Awesome!” Billy said, with a reverence that thoroughly annoyed his sister. “What could be awesome about this?” “Look at it,” he said, “It’s like a haunted house.”’

It’s hard to say much without spoilers, but world we visit with Sarah is a highly imaginative and original one. People there are certainly very strange.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mark Steensland builds a wonderful set of worlds that interconnect behind a child's bookcase. The creatures and settings are unique and memorable. It reminded most of A Stitch in Time.

My favorite character by far is Balthazat, King of the Cats. What a fun villain! As owner of a cat who consistently wishes to murder me, I found Balthazat a believable evil overlord.
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Format: Hardcover
I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the author for my birthday, and what a great surprise! This is exactly the kind of book I loved as a kid: secret passages into other worlds, mysterious characters (who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?), a sinister setting, and a talking cat. And since I was a scaredy-cat (still am, truth be told), I love that this book is creepy without being nightmare-worthy for kids. A great read-aloud choice, at Halloween or any time!
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By Daryl on November 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Sarah and her family move east to Pennsylvania for the summer in order to fix up her grandmother's house in order to sell it. Her mom isn't too thrilled about this prospect - there are a lot of painful memories tied up in such a move. While her mom's past is never fully explored, the few stories told about Sarah's grandmother make it questionable as to wither or not the lady was mentally there enough to raise a kid on her own. Matters become more strained when the family is kept up at night by mysterious knockings they can't explain and the unexpected discovery of a locked door in the basement - one Sarah's mom says she once heard led to a land where all the souls of the dead sleep for eternity. But for Sarah the summer proves to be looking up once she discovers the secret doorway behind the bookshelf in her room.

Behind the door lays Scotopia, a land of eternal night, rivers of moonlight, fantastical monsters, and even Balthazat, the King of Cats himself. But things are not what they seem, and soon Sarah and her little brother Billy find that there is much more to the king than they previously thought, and that there is more than one door in their house that leads to a mysterious place ...

I really enjoyed getting my hands on my copy of this ARC. It's a fun, spooky, and wildly imaginative story for younger readers (as well as older kids and adults who have not lost their sense of fun and wonder) who might be bored with the usual thoroughfare for grade schoolers who want something darker to read. While Steensland is very careful to keep things age appropriate, Sarah and her brother, quite literally, go to hell and back, make a deal with the devil, gaze upon the face of god, converse with the dead and play hooky with monsters.
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