West, J. (2010). The Shadows. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Interest Level: 5-8
Reading Level: 5.1
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Fantasy
Subjects: Space and Time, Dwellings, Magic, Paintings, Cats, Girls, Family
The Book of Elsewhere:
1 – The Shadows
2 – Spellbound
3 – The Second Spy
4 – The Strangers
(release date: January 2013)
5 – ?

The Shadows by Jacqueline West is a fantasy, horror mystery, mixed with some realistic childhood concerns all combined into a well-written, fast-paced story with never a dull moment and new surprises and clues in each chapter. Eleven-year old Olive Dunwoody recently moved with her loopy mathematician parents into a creepy old Victorian mansion on Linder Street. Olive like any child her age goes out and explores the entire house. Olive finds the house odd, particularly the many painting which are unable to be removed from the walls and ponders whether she’s losing her mind because she keeps thinking she sees ever so slight changing occurring in the pictures out of the corner of her eye. But, when Olive discovers a pair of magical spectacles she discovers secrets in the paintings and endless questions needing answers.

With the glasses, Olive discovers that she can travel in and out to each painting like portals to other places and times. It is in one of these painting that she meets a young, rude, and frightened little boy named Morton. He appears alive, is warm to the touch, has memories of a life out of the painting but has no heartbeat to speak of. The house in which the previous owners died in it is protected by three talking and sarcastic cats – Horatio, Harvey, and Leopold. Each is assigned to different levels of the house and they tell Olive they are there to protect her but all of their advice is in riddles which Olive in unable to comprehend. Morton tells Olive not to trust the cats. The cats say not to trust the boy. So Olive is stuck not knowing who or what to believe but is aware of a “bad man” which they all speak of. Shortly after Olive’s parents leave to attend a work related conference, the “bad man” finally appears and is utterly frightening.

Olive is a spunky, charming, and courageous girl that in her attempts to occupy herself gets wrapped up into an old mystery, the paranormal, witch familiars, and a vengeful spirit and paintings she can enter. Jaqueline West in The Shadows has created a spine chilling story for tweens and all those of any age that enjoys a good scare. Her book succeeds at presenting frightening material in a manner that is not overly scary for young tweens. Readers may also enjoy Neil Gaiman’s Coraline with a similarly disconnected young girl or the unique isolated adventures of Bod in The Graveyard Book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle in which good and evil is fought by traveling through space, time, and dimensions, or book seven in The Sisters Grimm: The Ever After War by Michael Buckley which many may see spooky similarities between the Master and the “bad man” as in Jacqueline West’s, The Shadows.

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