I have been meaning to read The Shadows by Jacqueline West since it won the Cybil in MG Fantasy and Science Fiction last year. I finally got around to it now that the new winners are about to be announced. I can see why this one was chosen as a winner. This is a story sure to appeal to children who like their fantasy on the slightly creepy side. For adult fans of the genre there is also quite a bit of nostalgia on offer in the book.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there's something odd about the place—not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that's strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets—and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper. As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It's up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.
The story in this book is full of a child's dreams come true. An old Victorian house that is bought with all the possessions still inside and free to explore. All those old things to play dress up and all the interesting places to discover. Plus a library full of ancient books with piled high on shelves with ladders. The home also comes with cats. Cats that talk. Life doesn't get much more exciting than that and Olive is enjoying herself. Except for certain paintings that are creeping her out she loves the old house. After finding a pair of glasses that actually allows her to enter the paintings things become a little more dire. There are people inside the paintings who have an extraordinary and frightening tale to tell. Olive finds herself caught in a sinister plot that puts her and her entire family in danger and she doesn't know who she should trust: the lovely painting of a girl named Annabelle or the cats everyone in Elsewhere is telling her are evil witch's familiars.
In addition to the setting of the old house and the mystery of the paintings this book has a supernatural element in it that is downright creepy. If you have a young child who likes haunting stories with a mild fear factor this one is a good choice. It is not too scary, just scary enough and the intense parts of the plot move quickly.
For kids who like series The Shadows is only the first adventure in The Books of Elsewhere. The sequel, Spellbound, is currently available and the third volume, The Second Spy, will be released in July of this year.