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The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  7,432 Ratings  ·  897 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
ebook, 256 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published May 26th 2010)
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Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Robert Kent
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
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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.
R.S. Oswald
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this book to be boring, bland, cheesy, and cliche, but it definitely wasn't! My only complaint is that Morton acts and talks more like a five-year-old than a nine-year-old.

Violence and darkness
An old woman dies; there are several creepy theories as to how she died; many very creepy/suspenseful scenes; a villain has killed two other people.

“Dippy”; “twit”; “nincompoop”; “nitwit”.

Princeton University; Little Women; Anne of Green Gables

Other notes
The villains ar
Barb Middleton
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura (Madsen) McLain
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
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start off by saying that I love books written with the child in mind. Though not as complex as as some of the fiction written for adults, both in content and in form--the children's book (targeted to 9-12 readers) is not without its own standards, and the author, Jacqueline West, meets them brilliantly.

Having just received my check, I decided to indulge myself in a little ebook spree and bought The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere vol. 1), from Amazon on a whim. Four hours later, I was gl
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 suspens
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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;
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
Mark Buxton
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ann Marie
Aug 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chloe V.
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ivy Lake
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My daughter and I shared this as a read-aloud and were so sad when it was done. West's characters are quirky and authentic, and her old house full of mystery and magic was an amazing place to explore. Highly recommended as a family read!
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an awesome book by Jacqueline West! This would be a perfect book if you like darkness, horror and mystery.
Solid but unexceptional old-house-with-magical-secrets kiddie fantasy.

This book caught my attention while I was browsing through overdrive because the author has my first name. When I read the synopsis I became more interested because my daughter had told me a story idea that she had that was very similar. I had to check this kids book out. I listened to it on audio. I've decided not to share it with my daughter right now for a number of reasons, lots of talking points in it though. I may have to come back to it.
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Other Books in the Series

The Books of Elsewhere (5 books)
  • Spellbound (The Books of Elsewhere, #2)
  • The Second Spy (The Books of Elsewhere, #3)
  • The Strangers (The Books of Elsewhere, #4)
  • Still Life (The Books of Elsewhere, #5)

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“Ms. McMartin had no close family. Her nearest relative was a distant cousin who had recently died in Shanghai, after a severe allergic reaction to a bowl of turtle and arsenic soup.” 14 likes
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