A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids already acquainted with classical music will love the way it's woven into the plot and Olivia's DNA. Those for whom it's a new subject will pick up intriguing suggestions for future listening, as well as the interesting backstories of the musical pieces. Readers will also pick up occasional words and phrases in Italian and other languages, as well as insights into daily life during historic eras as Olivia and Henry revisit the ghosts' lives.
Strong mesages about kindness, forgiveness, love, and loyalty to family and friends. The novel also reflects and encourages a love of music and art.
Positive Role Models
Though she says she hates her father, Olivia is devoted to her frail, funny grandmother, and over the course of the story makes friends, shows kindness and courage, and learns understanding and empathy. Her friend Henry is clever, brave, and loyal, and their mutual friend Joan is protective, confident, and fearless. When things are really dire, the extended community of musicians comes to the rescue.
Violence & Scariness
Some of the ghosts tend to lose body parts or be strangely assembled. The kids experience the deaths of many ghosts, including children, some of whom were killed in war and at least one of whom was murdered by a friend. Some malevolent spirits are trying to destroy living and dead people. Olivia tries to punch a boy who's tormenting her, but a friend intervenes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses on the cheek.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are plenty of ghosts and other spooky beings, some good and some evil, in The Year of Shadows, the second middle-grade novel by author Claire Legrand. But unlike her first, The Cavendish School for Boys and Girls, it's no horror story. In this sweetly snarky, poignant tale of the supernatural, the terrors come less from the afterlife than from this one -- losing loved ones, losing your home, losing your job. Many young readers may find this more frightening than mere figments of the imagination.
Is It Any Good?
Tough-talking, internally fragile Olivia is a winning heroine whose sarcastic narrative voice is engaging and emotionally real as she makes unexpected discoveries and survives harrowing adventures. Karl Kwasny's black-and-white illustrations bring her and her surroundings to life. The description of life after death and the various challenges facing the spirits is imaginative, but may raise questions in the minds of some young readers.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.