Reading Level: Middle Grade
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Puffin Books
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in The Books of Elsewhere series
Rating: 4/5 stars
“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.”
I have had this book (it’s actually my son’s book) to read for awhile. This was a creative, creepy, and well done middle grade mystery/fantasy. I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
The whole book has a very dark and creepy tone to it. The premise is familiarly middle grade in tone (a kid moves into a creepy old house with a sorted history and has to solve a mystery there) but also very creative (I love the idea that Olive can travel through the paintings).
There is a main mystery/problem that is dealt with in this book but there are still many more mysteries to unravel in this mansion. Some parts are a bit gory and scary but it never gets too intense.
My son hasn’t read it yet, but it is definitely one I think he would like. In fact I think any kids who loves cats (I mean talking cats! Who doesn’t love that!) and enjoys a slightly spooky read will love this.
My only complaint is that Olive’s parents are fairly absent (both in mind and presence throughout the story). They are mathematicians and dismissed as too clueless and caught up in their own lives to be part of Olive’s. While I enjoy Olive’s parents’ quirky mathematician background, I dislike it when middle grade stories distance the kids from their parents and portray adults as unhelpful and too universally stupid to actively be part of the story.
Overall I enjoyed the book. I liked the writing style, the gloomy atmosphere, and the creative idea of traveling through paintings. I didn’t really like the relationship (or lack thereof) that Olive had with her parents, but aside from that I thought this was a good book. It is a lower middle grade reading level, so the story was a bit simple for me. However, I will probably read the next book in the series anyway.