However, I recently finished a middle grade book, so I consider this my first under-the-radar MMGM post. If I ever get ahead on my TBR crit pile, I might be able to read a few more MG books, which would be great seeing as this is where I write.
For now, on to my review...
Title: The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1)
Author: Jacqueline West, web page
Date published: June 30, 2010**
Description (from Goodreads):
What a fun idea! The main character, Olive, moves into an old house and inherited the belongings of the previous owner. As any good, curious 11-year-old would do, Olive explores the house and finds glasses that allow her to crawl into the paintings. A fun mystery ensues as Olive tries to figure out which characters from the paintings are friendly and who is trying to keep her trapped in the paintings forever.
What worked for me:
1. Her parents
I know some MG stories get a bad rap for having the absent parent thing going on. West handled this really well by creating parents who were brainiac math professors while their daughter has no mathematical inclination. This created a believable disconnect between Olive and her parents.
Olive was alone in the dark basement when she realized she wasn't alone. Something as simple as the absence of light created a perfectly creepy setting. Being in a dark situation played a part later in the book as well and I thought both were handled quite well.
3. Mentor figures
West created three highly entertaining mentor figures to help Olive navigate the paintings and thwart the enemy. I understand there are two other books in the series (one out already, the third due out in 2012) and I hope these three characters make appearances in the next books. They provided comic relief and were able to help Olive out of some serious jams.
The Shadows was nominated for a number of awards and won a Cybils award in 2011 for the best middle grade fantasy and science fiction book. As an aunt to two boys (nine and six years old) who enjoy reading, I would gladly give this book to them to read. I think they might relate more to a boy main character, but the story itself is highly appropriate for their age.
(**--I realize this isn't necessarily a "new release" but I'm going back a year or so and reading MG books in my genre instead of waiting in line for current MG new releases at my library.)