“It's been my experience
that those people who seem the most 'normal'
are in fact the most dangerous.”
Jacqueline West, The Second Spy
Once SC and I finished the listening to the audiobooks of the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, after contemplating starting the Lord of the Rings series but decided not yet, I stumbled upon the first book in The Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West. This is another series that has a touch of magic and fantasy, and some horror-lite akin to Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which is SC's favorite genre. We decided to give the audiobook a try, and I was not only not disappointed, but hugely impressed with the quality of writing in these stories. After some research, I discovered that West has won awards for her poetry, which makes sense. She utilizes words in the Elsewhere books in a way that I have not seen/read in most contemporary children's novels. She is a true wordsmith.
The story of the Elsewhere series is about Olive Dunwoody, an eleven-year-old girl who, along with her math professor parents, moves into an historical home whose previous owner, Ms. McMartin, has recently deceased. Quickly after moving in, Olive notices that things in the house, which they purchased fully furnished with all of old Ms. McMartin's stuff, is a little off. For example, when the family attempts to move some of the paintings on the wall, it is found that the paintings are oddly stuck. Then, Olive begins to think that the painting she can see from her bedroom is moving. After an afternoon exploring the house, where Olive discovers an intriguing pair of spectacles, and learns that not only are the paintings moving, but while wearing the spectacles she can travel into the paintings to a place called Elsewhere. However, Elsewhere isn't the quiet place it seems to be, and Olive realizes that something, or someone, is not pleased that her family has taken ownership of the McMartin house. Each book in the series builds on Olive uncovering secrets of the house, and the McMartin family, as she tries to outwit and defeat an evil that has prevailed for too long on Linden Street.
I would recommend these novels to older elementary children who are not easily spooked. However, if purchasing the audiobooks read by Lexi Fridell, she has such a sweet voice that I think some of the spook is lost by her reading it, and a younger elementary child who has a firm grip on fantasy vs. reality would love it.
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