The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Book 1

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Smart series starter for kids who love haunted houses.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book is part of a series, and readers may be inspired to continue reading all the installments.

Positive Messages

Even when you're lonely, don't give up, and keep your heart open to the people (and animals) you love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Olive is a brave girl who faces her fears to fight for her home. Even at the end, she vows to keep working to help someone she loves who's not yet safe.


The Shadows begins with the death of a very old woman -- and rumors around the neighborhood that her cats have eaten part of her face. Olive is in peril through much of the book, including almost being drowned in a painting of a lake, and later having to face off against a very old and powerful witch who wants to trap her in a painting, too. Olive learns that townspeople have been kidnapped for knowing too many of the house's secrets and that the old and powerful witch killed his own son.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows is a middle-grade series starter that features a creepy house and dead witches who return to take back ownership of their family property. An 11-year-old misfit, Olive, is in peril after her own family moves into the house; she is almost drowned, and later has to face off against a very old and powerful witch who killed his own son -- and removed neighbors who knew too much about his family's ways. Readers ready for some scary stuff will find a brave protagonist who faces her fears to fight for her home. Even though Olive is lonely, she must decide to remain in the real world and keep her heart open to the people (and animals) she loves.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byBexca_14 February 4, 2019

I really enjoyed this book

Review from my 10 yr old daughter
Its a hart warming tale of a girl who just wants to live in the big stone house in peace. But an evil person had lived in this... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old December 7, 2017

Really Good

My cousin recommended this book for me. I was fairly impressed when I started this tiny bit scary book but once I got into it I was kinda disappointed. In some... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old July 8, 2014

Great book...but a little bit scary!

The Shadows is a very interesting and mysterious book. It is the beginning of a series called the Books of Elsewhere. I really enjoyed it, but if you don... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Olive's mathemetician parents decide to buy a creepy old mansion, the 11-year-old misfit finally has a house of her own. But the old house is not what it seems: It's filled with talking cats, pictures that Olive can climb in and out of -- and a growing danger. After all, according to one of the cats, \"There is something that doesn't want you here, and it will do it best to get rid of you.\" Olive doesn't know whom to trust as she begins to peel off the layers of mystery filling up the old house. And the wrong choices she makes threaten her friends, her family, and her own life. It will take all her strength to fight back against a dark force in a frightening final faceoff.

Is it any good?

The author has all the right pieces here: A sympathetic protagonist, a creepy old house, and clever ideas. Especially intriguing are the portraits that Olive can climb into (and in which other people, including Olive's strange new friend, Morton, have become trapped). The book has scary scenes, such as when Olive almost drowns in a painting of a lake, but the comedic cats add some levity, and savvy readers will know Olive will survive (Her picture is on the other cover of the other series installments, after all). In the end, this is a smart choice for series-loving mid-grade readers who like to shiver beneath their sheets during a creepy bedtime story. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Shadows being part of a series. What's fun about reading multiple books about a single character or fictional world?

  • Why do you think publishers might be interested in publishing a series rather than a stand-alone book?

  • Can you think of other books and movies that take place in an old mansion? Why do you think this is a popular idea?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and fantasy

Themes & Topics

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