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The Shadows

(The Books of Elsewhere #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,298 ratings  ·  1,076 reviews
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: Sh ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 9th 2010 by Dial Books for Young Readers
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Patrick Algermissen I've been reading these to my girls since last year, when they were 5 and 8. They can be kid-scary in places, but both of them enjoy the series very m…moreI've been reading these to my girls since last year, when they were 5 and 8. They can be kid-scary in places, but both of them enjoy the series very much and it hasn't been too scary for them. We've read the first 4 books, and I don't think they've been any scarier than the first two Harry Potter books. Though I have had to have conversations with them along the lines of, "If you find yourself being transported to magical lands and are worried that evil witches are going to come out of paintings and haunt you, please don't hide it from me. I will do my best to help you."(less)
Lisa Runge I was skeptical because I feel like there are so many books that look and sound like this one, but I enjoyed both the plot and the creepy atmosphere. …moreI was skeptical because I feel like there are so many books that look and sound like this one, but I enjoyed both the plot and the creepy atmosphere. My son is listening to book 3 now, so I suppose that's an endorsement from him as well. Definitely worth a try. (less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  9,298 ratings  ·  1,076 reviews

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Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Rarely do I, as a male, identify with female characters. However, in the case of Olive I was able to lose myself in the story completely. Elements of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, and a touch of Madeleine L'Engle combine flawlessly to create a story that is both fascinating and engrossing. However, it is truly unfair to compare West to other authors without highlighting the fact that while her style and prose are reminiscent of the aforementioned others it is still unique and refreshing. Her worldbui ...more
Robert Kent
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
FIRST PARAGRAPH: MS. MCMARTIN WAS definitely dead. It had taken some time for the neighbors to grow suspicious, since no one ever went in or came out of the old stone house on Linden Street anyway. However, there were several notable clues that things in the McMartin house were not as they should have been. The rusty mailbox began to bulge with odd and exotic mail-order catalogs, which eventually overflowed the gaping aluminum door and spilled out into the street. The gigantic jungle fern that h ...more
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant debut novel by Jacqueline West! I receive plenty of ARC's every year, but very few that leave me satisfied and excited for the follow-up.

SPOILER ALERT!!! This Victorian-esque mystery novel has a brilliant and strong heroine in Olive Dunwoody. She is an average girl with genius mathematical parents, and she feels her ordinary existence as she moves from school to school for her parents career. Olive's parents finally decide to put down some roots, and they choose the most unique, spook
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidstuff, fantasy
Well, this one had great potential . . .

Eleven-year-old Olive and her parents move to an old house that comes furnished with all the previous occupant's possessions. When Olive stumbles upon a pair of glasses that allow her to crawl inside paintings, things take a turn for the mysterious. Great idea, eh? And it could have led to some fantastic adventures, but the author just didn't go there. Perhaps if the book had been longer, there could have been some whimsical bits with the paintings, befor
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This volume by Jacqueline West, The Shadows, is first in the series of Elsewhere. Right away - loved the cover. If you see it in person, the cover actually reflects light and looks like it's glowing. The drawing is a perfect likeness to Olive, the main character. Each illustration is a mix of creepiness and adorability.

I am amazed by Jacquline West and her ability to pack in multiple story lines, adventure and several twists with a few heapfuls of angst in 241 pages. She tells the tale of Olive
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
I initially had this book in audio format but felt like I was missing something. A quick trip to the bookstore solved that one. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the narrator, I just felt like I was missing out on flipping the pages, looking at the illustrations and reading the words. I fell in love with the wonderfully detailed pictures of the McMartin home and Olive trying on long gloves and combs in her hair. I was instantly lured into the book by the author’s style of desc ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
If you like The Book Jumper you might like this, instead of jumping in books the main character can jump into paintings. The plot was simple and at times it was slow, but it was enjoyable. I could tell you the plot but you can look it up on here. There were some good and some bad. The good, being able to jump into paintings. The bad, I didn't really like the ending. And there are three talking cats, if you're into that. It's the first of a series and I'll give the rest a chance. Hopefully the se ...more
Barb Middleton
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have a favorite pen. The ink seeps out of it so I hardly have to press the felt tip to the paper. Bliss... no callouses, no hand-cramps, just my handy-dandy pen and a cup of tea when I sit down to write. So imagine the irony when I come across this paragraph that I absolutely have to write in my journal and I can't find my blasted pen:

"In her bedroom, Olive dug through the closet looking for a pair of slippers to wear for protection against the chilly stone floor. But there were no slippers to
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Olive and her family move into a big, creepy house and as she explores, she finds that the paintings come to life and the cats talk to her. The storyline was nice but halfway through the book the pacing started to drag, some things didn't make sense.. And I just felt it could've been less predictable and more mysterious. An entertaining choice for kids who want a story that's a little scary, but not too much. I'm not sure I'll be continuing the series, as I'm not totally entranced by this world. ...more
Lost Soul
Jun 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
My 5-year-old little nephew enjoys reading this scary book. I bought it because I loved the cover, since it had a glaring effect. I love the talking cats and the world in the paintings. Highly recommend for children that like reading scary stuffs.
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.”

WHO wouldn't like a book that opens with that line? But what kid would want their parents to buy a house, actually a huge mansion (old, old, old) where someone died? NOT ME... nope! Poor Olive, her parents did... parents who are brilliant and see her normal intelligence as less than, but they still love her. Having mathematically inclined parents must be a common theme in middle school books, THE TREEHOUSE WARS included this as well.

Olive finds the three hous
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
It was an intriguing concept, and it reminded me a little of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. But I didn't enjoy it as much as Coraline. The main character certainly had spunk and I wanted to know how things would turn out, but there was something missing. The setting was intriguing and I thought the author did a nice job of making the story suspenseful without going over the line into "scary" - and it was a nice blend for it's middle school age group. The cats were an interesting touch, but I wasn't to ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Apparently I am on a kick of dark/horror-like childrens' books. I am pleased to have enjoyed them.
This book though, it is the best of the batch. It does have a similar feel of Coraline but it is not Coraline. I probably adore this book primarily for being enamored with discovery in books and we get loads of that as Olive explores the house and the rules of this . . . for lack of a better term - game/book. I did adore the book, but I was not amazed by it. There was an element of the ending coming
Laura McLain
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
THE SHADOWS, a middle-grade paranormal novel, opens with a great line: “Ms. McMartin was definitely dead.” The decedent leaves behind a huge old pile of a mansion, and as her nearest relative has just died in Shanghai of “a severe allergic reaction to a bowl of turtle and arsenic soup,” the house is put on the market. Mr. and Mrs. Dunwoody, a pair of university mathematicians, buy the house and move in with their eleven-year-old daughter, Olive. Olive’s parents are loving, but tend to consider h ...more
Let me start off by saying that Lexy Fridellhas a perfect voice with which to narrate the books in the Books of Elsewhere series. She's got that high-ish Lisa Simpson voice, and that works for these books since our main character is an 11 year old girl. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to deal with Fridell's voice, but it all worked out just fine.

I did enjoy The Shadows, the first book in the Books of Elsewhere Series. It was good fantasy aimed at older elementary school kids. There was some suspen
Meet Olive, an 11 year old girl new to the neighborhood whose family has just moved into a mansion with quite a past. As Olive explores the house’s many rooms and their contents, she rushes headlong, literally, into unearthing the dark history of the mansion’s previous inhabitants, when she finds a pair of glasses tucked away in the drawer. When Olive dons them, she learns there is far more to the strange, dark paintings that seem permanently affixed to the walls than she thought – she can actua ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written middle-grade fantasy, mostly serious but with many humorous moments. Olive Dunwoody, age 11, moves into a spooky house with her affectionate but distant parents, does some exploring, has magical adventures that gradually become darker and more dangerous, gets in deeper than she bargained for, and ultimately has to fight for her life. There are daring rescues and desperate escapes. During the course of the story Olive makes friends and grows up a little.

The prose is sound.
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I want more! I hope this is a long series, because I just love the main character, Olive. She is your classic outcast, the kid who has no friends, until she meets a boy who happens to live in a painting. She can't figure out how to help him, but she tries, and in so doing, incurs the wrath of a vengeful spirit whose name she doesn't know. Three talking cats try to help her, but are they really her friends?
With elements of fantasy mixed with real-life concerns of the deepest fears of a young girl
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It's like a delightful mix of 100 Cupboards and Coraline.

Olive and her parents just moved into a big, old Victorian house. Her parents are pretty busy with their jobs, so Olive has some time to explore her new house. Olive examines the paintings left on the walls and well as the drawers of dressers and other furniture left in the house when her parents bought it. Before long she discovers and old pair of spectacles, and and even bigger surprise - when she's wearing the glasses
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
This should work well for our neighborhood. The ideas about art and the studiously aloof, but loving parents are a perfect match for our overly-academic customers. The story is a fun one that will be a delight to share with kids.

I'd pair this in a display with Agee's INCREDIBLE PAINTING OF FELIX CLOUSSEAU.

Several excellent kid critic reviews are coming in for this. Here's the first one:

In my own words: There’s something odd about the McMartin House, and everyone knows it. Poor Olive Dunwoody;
Olive's family buys an old, creepy house that is enormous.and full of odd paintings. Olive's parents are absorbed with Math and all things mathmatical so Olive has lots of time to explore. When she finds a pair of old glasses she discovers that she can actually go into the paintings. She also discovers a trio of talking cats who guard the house and it's "secret". Despite warnings from these cats, Olive continues to explore inside the paintings, popping in and out at will. Was it only a matter of ...more
Ann Marie
Aug 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Let me just start by saying, I do not fall into the age group intended for this book...that being said I was delighted to have read it...sometimes I enjoy a young adult or even a pre-teen read...kind like a vacation for my head since I read sooooo much...this one was like taking a trip to Hershey Park after three years of work without a vacation...I enjoyed Olive and her cat friends very much and (so not like me) even enjoyed the lack of parenting from the parents...I thought for sure Olive was ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Although I would recommend this to certain readers, I am not eager to read the next in the series. Olive and her family move into a house that has been previously owned by powerful and cruel witches. The three cats in the home befriend Olive as she discovers the house's secrets by moving in and out of the framed artwork, enabled by a pair of enchanted spectacles she finds. It has some exciting moments though, and Olive is a lovable character. As with most intermediate level fiction, the parents ...more
Chloe V.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. When eleven-year-old Olive and her mathematician parents move in, Olive is right to think there's something odd about the place, but when she finds a pair of old glasses, Olive discovers the most peculiar thing yet: she can travel inside these paintings to Elsewhere, (crazy right?), a place that's strangely quiet...and familiar. Olive soon finds herself in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, a power that wants to be rid of her by an ...more
Mark Buxton
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book won the 2010 Cybils award in middle grade speculative fiction. I liked how the author developed the suspense through the characters and settings. Olive wasn't sure who to trust, so I was left wondering what was actually going on. The woman in the painting seemed pretty and sweet, but why would the cats be warning Olive if they were evil spies? Olive's character was adventurous and brave. The dark, damp, chilly basement was a very frightening place for her, but she knew she could find a ...more
Lennie Grace
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is my most favorite middle-grade series. :D I reread it every single year. It's spooky, creative, beautifully written. The illustrations in the physical copy are gorgeous, and the narration for the audio version is amazing.

a lonely little girl moves into a creepy old house and slowly begins to unravel its secrets. there's something magical and creepy going on, and olive is determined to figure out what it is.

complete with talking cats, magical paintings, and the standard oblivious parents
Ivy Lake
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
April is For Authors is such an amazing event! I met Jacqueline West, Lynda Hunt, Sharon Draper, and other various authors. This book kept me reading and hoping for more but the exposition was a little rocky as well as the background knowledge of the main character. Miss West was so nice although I didn't get to talk to her for long; she was so popular! ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: obob-2016, 2016
The Shadows was a well-told mystery with some effective thrills and chills thrown in for good measure. The unexpected scariness was a nice boon for me personally, and makes this an edgier choice for pre-teens. This is an excellent start to a series and definitely leaves me wanting to read the rest. Highly recommended.
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great escape, and just the start of the adventure for Olive and the readers who choose to follow her into Elsewhere. This first book in the series sets up an imaginative world that I can't wait to find out more about. Lots of fun, and funny too. Pick it up. ...more
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