Wendy Darling's Reviews > Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
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it was amazing
bookshelves: juvenile, pn-ghosts, 2011-favorites, middle-grade, gorgeous-prose, read-2011, heroines-butt-kicking, favorites-all-time, made-my-heart-hurt, sweet-old-fashioned, mythic-and-fairy-tale-ish, fantasy, 2011-5-books, illustrated, 2011-publication
Recommended for: fans of children's classics, Harry Potter, and Catherynne M. Valente

Every once in awhile, a children's book comes along that whisks you away to another world--and if you're very lucky, at the end of the story, it's one that also illuminates your own. Liesl & Po extends a delightful invitation to wizardry and adventure, but it’s also a gentle and poignant rumination on love and loss.

Liesl has been locked away in her stepmother’s attic for a very long time, ever since her beloved father got sick. One night, a pensive ghost named Po appears in her room and lifts the veil between the everyday world and the one Beyond. What follows is a wonderful journey overflowing with heart and hope and humor.

I was thoroughly charmed by Liesl, whose plucky courage and ingenuity are matched by the thoughtful, drifting Po and the hopelessly smitten Will, a young alchemist’s apprentice who accidentally sets off a troublesome chain of events when he misplaces a box full of magic. The trio is joined by an unforgettably madcap cast of characters, each with their own identities and worries and dreams, and the author deftly weaves all their interconnected threads together into a story that feels fresh and funny and thoroughly original.

Not at all as mannered or as self-conscious as Breadcrumbs, which ultimately showed its seams perhaps a little too much, this fairy tale adventure is tripping with charm and written with exceptional intelligence and sensitivity. The author’s note indicates that the book was written in just two months following the sudden death of her best friend, and the extraordinary love behind that inspiration hovers wistfully over every page.


...he had imagined it perfectly: how he would come around the corner and see that tiny square of light so many stories above him, and see her face floating there like a single star.


He might have begun to blur, letting the infinity tug on him gently from all sides, like sand being pulled by an eternal tide. He might have already begun the process of becoming a part of Everything. He would begin to feel the electricity from distant stars pulsing through him like a heartbeat. He would feel the weight of old planets on his shoulders, and he would feel the winds of distant corners of the universe blowing through him.

My heart swells with ineffable love for this book, which has instantly found its place beside classics such as Peter Pan and The Secret Garden--and yes, it really is that good. Between the dizzying adventures and the sly cleverness of the writing and the quiet emotion, Liesl & Po reminded me especially of Mary Poppins in a huge way—particularly in the moments when you catch a fleeting glimpse of something bigger than your own story and your own self.

If there’s a child in your life or a child in your heart who still longs for shining adventure, Liesl & Po will take her there. It’s beautiful. It’s transformative. It’s magic.

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden.

A Note About the Book:

I'd highly recommend obtaining the hardcover of this book if you can. The cover is gorgeous (click on it to enlarge and see for yourself!) and there are wonderfully simple pencil drawings throughout, some of which can be seen on the author's website here. It will make a spectacular gift for the right person for the holidays. Mwark.
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Quotes Wendy Darling Liked

Lauren Oliver
“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.”
Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

Lauren Oliver
“(I)f 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 road 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.”
Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

Lauren Oliver
“Of all the miracles Po had seen in the time and space of its death, Po thought this--the absorption of another, the carrying of it--was the most bewildering and remarkable of all. Whenever Bundle separated again, Po was left with an ache of sadness that reminded the ghost of the body it had left behind.”
Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

Lauren Oliver
“It was as though the darkness was a sheet of raw cookie dough and someone had just taken a cookie cutter and made a child-sized shape out of it.”
Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

Lauren Oliver
“People could push and pull at you, and poke you, and probe as deep as they could go. They could even tear you apart, bit by bit. But at the heart and root and soul of you, something would remain untouched.”
Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

Reading Progress

June 29, 2011 – Shelved
October 1, 2011 – Started Reading
October 1, 2011 –
page 5
1.63% "She was lying in bed in the uniform gray darkness of her small attic room when in one corner the shadows seemed to crimp, or flex, and suddenly standing next to her wobbly desk and three-legged chair was a person about her height. It was as though the darkness were a sheet of raw cookie dough, and someone had just taken a cookie cuter and made a child-sized shape out of it."
October 1, 2011 –
page 12
3.91% "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."
October 2, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 99 (99 new)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) That was fast. ;) That cover is so beautiful, btw. I'm so glad that you loved it.

message 2: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Aw, such beautiful prose! :D

Wendy Darling It's the most gorgeous ARC I've ever seen, Maja, so I imagine the finished copy will be even more so. It has deckled edges, raised dark gold accents, and it's wonderfully illustrated with pencil drawings inside.

I marked so many pages with Post-It notes with wise, beautiful passages that I wanted to remember, Laura--the writing just makes you want to pause and savor every word. Except the story is so much fun that you are racing ahead to see what happens next!

message 4: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Oh, that is awesome! The story looks so cute! Looking forward to your review :D
Btw, I hope you don't mind these questions but, what does "own-dtb-tbr" ou "pn-ghosts" mean?

Wendy Darling Hah, of course I don't mind! DTB means "dead tree book," a tragically inappropriate common reference to a hard copy that I actually own, not an ebook or something I've borrowed or given away. "TBR" is "to be read' and "PN" just stands for paranormal, with subsets of the supernatural critters after that.

Just my personal way of sorting my reading material, and a way to make it easy for friends to browse my shelves if they're interested in reading about a particular subject. I snoop my friends' shelves all the time. :)

Masako Lin This sounds like an utter gem! When is it getting released again?

message 7: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Aah, now I get it! I thought "TBR" meant what you said but the "DTB" confused me a little bit (poor tree! Tragic, but appropriate!...)

I like to snoop my friends shelves as well, hehe :D

Giselle I've been hearing great reviews on this one! I can't wait to read it!

Wendy Darling It'll be out this week on October 4, SL. I've been behind on reading this, but I'm glad I did in time before release.

It's wonderful, Giselle! :) And yeah, the term "DTB" is sad, but appropriate Laura.

message 10: by Limonessa (new) - added it

Limonessa Nice review Wendy! Perfect choice for a Christmas present then.

Wendy Darling I wish I knew kids around this age. I want to buy copies for them! But I'll have to settle for buying copies for adults instead.

message 12: by HD (new) - added it

HD Tolson Awesome, awesome review! Have heard so many good things! Cannot WAIT to read!

Wendy Darling Thanks HD! It's an awesome, awesome book. :) Get yourself a copy soon!

message 14: by HD (new) - added it

HD Tolson Will do!

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm so happy to see that you enjoyed it too, Wendy! Did you read an ARC or a finished copy? I'm curious to see what the final artwork will look like.

message 16: by Kari (new)

Kari glad you liked it , Wendy ;)

Wendy Darling I read an ARC, Mocha, which was already beautiful and chock-full of great illustrations--but I can't wait to see the finished product, too. They really did everything right on this one.

Thanks Kari! :)

message 18: by Cara (new) - added it

Cara Oh Wendy you are wonderful! I know just the right person to buy this book for now:D I'll just have to sneak a read before a give it away;)

Wendy Darling Yay! I'm so glad, Cara. And yes, definitely sneak a read before you send it off to do good to others. :)

message 20: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Lohr Thanks for the review, Wendy. I've been hesitant about this particular book, but it looks like I'm definitely adding it to my growing TBR list. :)

message 21: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Lohr BTW...I'm a ridiculously huge fan of Peter Pan and love your profile pic! :)

message 22: by Isabel (new)

Isabel *to-read! :) (I trust your judgement since you so rarely give out five-star ratings.)

message 23: by Wendy Darling (last edited Oct 02, 2011 01:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Oh thank you, Wendy! I am so, so picky about juvenile/middle grade books so I was very hesitant about this one, too. Although there have been a number of contemporary books written for this age group that I've enjoyed, I've never before felt as if they quite captured that same feel as the classics I loved from my childhood--so I'm very glad to finally find one that does. I am hoping that Lauren Oliver writes many more books for younger readers.

And thanks, Isabel. This is my seventh 5-star book for 2011, I think. :)

message 24: by Isabel (new)

Isabel Lauren Oliver seems to be such a flexible writer. I mean, she writes for all different genres/ages.

Wendy Darling She is. I'm hugely impressed by this one--I liked Delirium, but I love love love Liesl & Po. There's so much heart in it.

message 26: by Isabel (new)

Isabel See, that's also an advantage for her -- she gets more readers that way. ;-)

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll definitely check this one out. Thanks from me as well.

Wendy Darling My pleasure! I hope you two enjoy it as much as I did.

message 29: by Kaye (new) - added it

Kaye At the beginning of this right now. Glad to hear it's good. I like it so far.

Wendy Darling I'm excited for everyone to read it! :) Can't wait to read your review, Kaye.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) You just keep making me buy more books, but you also keep discovering these special stories! Such a lovely review, Wen. Even more lovely than usual, and that's saying something. :)

Aly (Fantasy4eva) I adored this book. So beautifully written and the lovely drawings were a great addition. Good to know that you enjoyed it Wendy! :)

Wendy Darling This is such a special book, Maja--you're going to love reading it with Nika one day. And thank you, as always. :)

I hope you write a review, Aly--I'd love to read it! And it's good to spread the word.

Aly (Fantasy4eva) Wendy Darling wrote: "This is such a special book, Maja--you're going to love reading it with Nika one day. And thank you, as always. :)

I hope you write a review, Aly--I'd love to read it! And it's good to spread the ..."

I reviewed it on the blog but never got around to doing it on here. Think I'll do that now, thanks for reminding me :D

message 35: by Sandy (new) - added it

Sandy This review is GORGEOUS, Wendy. Your words are giving me shivers.

Wendy Darling Sandy wrote: "This review is GORGEOUS, Wendy. Your words are giving me shivers."

Aw, thanks so much, Sandy. I just hope people find this book and hug it tight.

message 37: by Karen (new) - added it

Karen This sounds so magical. You tell me anything is up there with Mary Poppins and Peter Pan and I'm gonna read it. :)

message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna What a beautiful review! Between you and Maja, you are killing my bookshelves! Your enthusiasm for these books is contagious and it makes me so anxious to read them! This one is no exception.

Wendy Darling Oh, thanks so much ladies! I've had a lot of luck with books lately (and so has Maja, I know), so I've been really happy.

I don't invoke Mary Poppins or Peter Pan lightly either, so...that might give you an idea of how much I love this book. :)

Crowinator Great review. I'm glad you loved this one! And you pulled out my favorite quotation, which I think I put in a status update way back when I was reading this -- the "ineffable" one. Such beautiful language.

Wendy Darling Yes, I had to add the quote to the GoodReads library as soon as I read it! The language made me swoon--I just loved this. It took me completely by surprise.

I hope you write a review, Crow!

message 42: by Jessi (new)

Jessi What a fantastic reveiw!!!! I can't wait to get a hold of this it sounds very magical

Wendy Darling Thanks Jessi! It's a book absolutely brimming with love and magic. I hope you get a copy soon, it should be out in stores tomorrow.

Crowinator I keep meaning to write a review, Wendy, but I'm so behind. I read this to do a Booklist review (a library review journal) and sometimes after I write that, I can' make myself write another one. But I will work on catching up!

Wendy Darling I so want everyone to read this book, Crow, so I hope you will. :)

I know how it is to be buried, though. I have a number of ARCs staring reproachfully at me as we speak. But I still have to juggle my "need to read" with "want to read" or else I won't read at all.

Laura I can't wait to read this again now! Beautiful review, Wendy! The illustrations look gorgeous!
Lauren Oliver's words always go straight to my heart.

Wendy Darling Thanks Laura! I do believe it's my very favorite book from this year. I'm sure it's going to end up being a classic, and deservedly so.

message 48: by Miakoda (new)

Miakoda That's incredible. I must read this STORY!

Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~ Thanks Wendy!! Added it to my list and will be looking for this book at BN when I go this weekend!! :) Awesome review, of course!

Wendy Darling Thanks so much Miakoda and Jenn! I can't wait for everyone to read this book. It will transport you to such a happy and magical place.

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