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The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Jacqueline West
- Illustrator: Poly Bernatene
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: June 30, 2010
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 11
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.