Nataliya's Reviews > Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3672777
's review
Jul 28, 12

bookshelves: 2012-reads, for-my-future-hypothetical-daughter
Recommended to Nataliya by: Jim
Read from July 20 to 22, 2012

It's a lovely and touching children's book so lovingly described by Jim.


But alas, I think I'm a bit too old and cynical for it to affect me the way I hoped it would. Which is my fault, not the book's, really.
"On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost."
This is the story of an 11-year-old Liesl, an orphan, who has been locked up in the attic by her evil stepmother (by the way, why are all fairy-tale stepmothers uniformly evil and ugly?). She meets Po, a ghost, an "it" from the Other Side, who has no memory of life on the Living Side. For the touch of the irresistible cuteness, we have Bundle, Po's companion, who may have been a dog or a cat back on the Living Side. And there is also Will, a young alchemist's apprentice, whose unwitting mix-up set the events of the story in motion.
"People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "it gets lonely to feel things all by yourself."
"She liked the word 'ineffable' because it meant a feeling so big or vast that it could not be expressed in words. And yet, because it could not be expressed in words, people had invented a word to express it, and that made Liesl feel hopeful, somehow."
This is a story full of melancholy and sadness. No wonder - from the afterword we learn that Lauren Oliver wrote this after a death of her friend, and the grief is palpable through the pages of this story, further illustrated by the beautiful and somehow sad pencil drawings. This is a story of loss and grief, sometimes explicitly stated (Liesl) or just heartbrokenly hinted at (Po and its traces of memories of friendship and being left out). It is the story of childhood that was not full of love and kindness (Will).
"Useless was one of the alchemist's favorite words, and he used it interchangeably to describe Will's plans, thoughts, work, appearance, and general selfhood."


But it is also a story of hope overcoming sadness, light ultimately winning over the darkness. A story of beautiful sadness, so to speak, the kind that ends up being uplifting and serves as a guiding beacon on the way to ultimate happiness. It is the story I would have adored as a small child. But this is also a story that does not completely ring true to my adult self, calloused by world experience. And this is why.

This story is set in the world of greyness, the world from which the sun and brightness has been removed years prior. But in contrast to the greyness of this world, the narration is clearly done in terms of black and white. We know who the good guys are. We know who the bad guys are. They are clearly defined, clearly separated, without much development that suggests growth or evolution or depth that blurs the back-and-white distinction. I guess I miss the in-between, the borderline that gives dimension to the world. But I remember loving having the world defined as 'good' and 'bad' so clearly when I was little. Hey, that's half of the appeal of the Disney movies, after all - the lovely clarity that they bring to our world. But I still missed the greyscale, so to say.

The ending - beautiful and satisfying. But given the tone of the story, I was half-hoping for a touch of bittersweet. I think my childhood has been scarred by the ending of Exupery's The Little Prince, when I suddenly realized that the Prince may have not just simply gone back to his planet and his Rose. And that feeling of childhood mental scarring is what somehow was making an adult in me long for a bittersweet ending here.
"Two visits to the living side, and the ghost had already become a little more human. Po had remembered how to lie."
All that said, I still enjoyed this book very much. The drawings were beautiful. The story was compelling. It is quite quotable. It leaves the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and even my cynical heart knows that sometimes all of us need a bit of that feeling, a bit of something that is uplifting and beautiful, and realism or bittersweetness be damned. And at the end, I gladly give this story 3.5 stars, put it on the imaginary bookshelf meant for my future (hypothetical) daughter, and recommend it easily.
"And this, really, is the story-within-the-story, because if you do not believe that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places, then I am afraid that for you the world will be long and brown and barren, and you will have trouble finding the light.
But if you do believe, then you already know all about magic.
"
49 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Liesl & Po.
sign in »

Reading Progress

07/21/2012
14.0% ""People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "it gets lonely to feel things all by yourself.""

Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Wendy Darling Ohh, I hope you enjoy it as much as Jim did too, Nataliya!


Nataliya Wendy, your review of this book is wonderful as well. It seems that you inspired Jim to read it, and he did the same to me! I'm just a few pages into this book, and I adore it so far.


Catie Can't wait to see what you think!


Nataliya I'm curious to see which camp I will end up in! Jim and Wendy loved it, but it was not for you. We'll see, we'll see...


The Holy Terror I loved it too!


Nataliya @ THT - I just read your review, and now I'm even more intrigued about this book!


The Holy Terror Ooh, yeah, you liked Fairyland! (Wendy still needs to read that, btw.)

Liesl isn't as good as Fairyland, but they have that same sort of fairy tale journey thing going for them. Liesl is more somber and not as fanciful, but it's still wonderful.

Hope you enjoy it! : )


Nataliya I loved 'Fairyland', and I'm patiently waiting for the sequel to it. I hope Wendy gets to it, I'd love to read her review of that book!


Wendy Darling I'm going to read Fairyland in the next couple of weeks since I need to read the sequel for review, hah. I'm so ashamed it's taken me so long.

Look forward to your review, Nataliya. I'm sure it will be epic, as always. ;)


The Holy Terror Wendy Darling wrote: "I'm going to read Fairyland in the next couple of weeks since I need to read the sequel for review, hah."

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

:D


Nataliya Wendy Darling wrote: "I'm going to read Fairyland in the next couple of weeks since I need to read the sequel for review, hah. I'm so ashamed it's taken me so long.

Look forward to your review, Nataliya. I'm sure it wi..."


Yesssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!! I absolutely love your reviews, Wendy, and I'm so excited to read what you think about the Fairyland book! I'm sure you'll love September and her adventures. And it's so insanely quotable! And... does it mean that you already have the sequel???? If so, you are SO lucky!
(You can tell I'm excited about it from my exclamation point overuse!)


message 12: by Traveller (new)

Traveller It's nice to read books like these with your kids, if you have any, so i appreciate reviews like this one. :)


Nataliya Traveller wrote: "It's nice to read books like these with your kids, if you have any, so i appreciate reviews like this one. :)"

I think my future hypothetical kids will definitely enjoy this book, especially at age 6-9 or so. It's quite lovely and simple, and well-written, too.


Catie Yes, I completely agree with this review! I really liked this book too, but I was missing the depth and nuance that I got from Fairyland or some of the other MG fairy tales I've read. I would completely read this to my girls though. Great review as always, Nataliya!


Nataliya Thanks, Catie! I think the big difference between this and Fairyland is the intended age range of the readers. I'd be very comfortable with a 6-year-old reading this book, but Fairyland, I think, will be difficult to understand and appreciate for anyone under age 10-12; it's too complicated for that.


Catie Yes, for sure!


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Great review, Nataliya! I understand completely where you are coming from with this one. Sounds like you and Catie had very similar reactions to it. And I do like your analysis of the gray world and the black and white characters.

I think I said something like this on Catie's review thread - there seems to be a point, early in a book, where the themes of the book strongly resonate for you or they don't. Once I settle into that framework, plus or minus, I tend to stay there. And the resonance, if it exists, tends to get stronger for me as the book goes along.

This book had its hooks in me very early, and that resonance just kept getting stronger all the way through. I am guessing that Wendy and THT had a similar sort of feeling about it, and it just didn't hit you or Catie that way. And that is just the way it goes with books!

Side note - I just got back from a week's vacation, after driving most of the day. A group of us took a day trip to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh, and it was a great experience! I don't the pictures on computer yet, but I plan to post a couple of them soon on an update thread. Highly recommended, and you can take your future hypothetical daughter there too! Every kid in our party wanted to buy the place and move in immediately.:)


Kelly H. (Maybedog) I think my daughter will like this. She loves ghost stories. I'm looking forward to reading it to her.


Nataliya Jim wrote: "Great review, Nataliya! I understand completely where you are coming from with this one. Sounds like you and Catie had very similar reactions to it. And I do like your analysis of the gray world an..."

Jim, have I mentioned that I absolutely love reading your comments? They are always so well thought out and insightful. I wonder what point in the book was the 'resonance' point for you?
I thought I connected initially with this book quite a bit, but I guess in the end it was not enough. I just could not feel the same connection as I felt with Valente's Fairyland, or Miéville's YA, or Gaiman's Coraline or Graveyard Book. Not even the same as I felt with the very sweet 'Scarlet Sails'. But I still liked it quite a bit, regardless of that, and I thought it was quite well done.

I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures from the trip; it sounds fun!

Kelly wrote: "I think my daughter will like this. She loves ghost stories. I'm looking forward to reading it to her."

I think it's a great story to read along with a child!


Ronyell Awesome review as always Nataliya!! I really enjoyed this book myself and I loved the illustrations!


Nataliya Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review as always Nataliya!! I really enjoyed this book myself and I loved the illustrations!"

Thanks, Ronyell! The beautiful pictures were among my favorite things about this lovely book, actually.


Ronyell Nataliya wrote: "Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review as always Nataliya!! I really enjoyed this book myself and I loved the illustrations!"

Thanks, Ronyell! The beautiful pictures were among my favorite things about th..."


You're welcome! The images really brought out the beauty in this book!


Kelly H. (Maybedog) I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters.


Nataliya Kelly - Maybedog wrote: "I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters."

I think you have to be just in the right mood to enjoy this book.


Paige I think you hit the nail on the head with the black & white characters. Having been reading "adult" literature lately, I was in that kind of mindset and I remember thinking, whenever the evil villains had their part, "That's a bit over the top! Oh so evil!" But nevertheless, I did really enjoy the book :)


Nataliya Paige wrote: "I think you hit the nail on the head with the black & white characters. Having been reading "adult" literature lately, I was in that kind of mindset and I remember thinking, whenever the evil villa..."

I wonder how much I would have loved this book if I were closer in age to its intended audience, the time when the world is more black-and-white and not as much grey. I think I would have adored it then.


back to top