Monday, February 6, 2012

My own MMGM post

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, aka MMGM, is a weekly blog hop powered by bloggers who cover middle grade books or topics. I've followed this for a while, making notes and adding to my TBR pile, but I never felt like I was ready to participate.

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):

Source
When eleven-year-old Olive moves into the crumbling old mansion on Linden Street, she's right to think there's something weird about the place, especially the walls covered in creepy antique paintings. But when she finds a pair of old-fashioned glasses in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet. She can travel inside these paintings to Elsewhere, a world that's strangely quiet . . . and eerily sinister. Olive soon finds that Elsewhere has secrets to hide and the most annoying of them is Morton, a small boy with a big temper. As he and Olive form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself caught in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It's up to her to save the house from the shadows, before the lights go out for good.

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.

2. Fear
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.)

17 comments:

  1. Reminds me a little bit of Coraline--which I loved!
    I'm putting this one on my tbr list--thanks :)

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    1. Coleen, I thought the artwork looked similar but when I checked online, it appears to be two different artists. As for the story, I agree--some definite similarities!

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  2. ooh, that actually sounds really good! My MG reading is limited, though i do love the Ranger's Apprentice series (reading #7 right now) and seem to slip in a few more throughout the year.

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  3. I loved this book too. Great pick.

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  4. This one is high on the TBR, seems I should get it read. Fabulous overview. Welcome to MMGM, I'll be sure to get you added to my list!

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    1. Thanks so much for the warm welcome!

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  5. Oh, I like the idea of getting into old paintings!!! Reminds me of the paintings at Hogwarts but even better. You should do more of these MMGM's, I like how you line out your points.

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    1. Thanks, Margo! It's nice to know what people like to read in these kinds of blogs. I will absolutely try to do more of these MMGM posts. For now, I need to find time to read. ACK!

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  6. Welcome to MMGM! I've heard plenty of good things about this book. Still on my TBR list. Crawling into paintings -- what a cool idea! And I love the fact that she still has both parents but that the author came up with a creative way to get Olive on her own.

    And no worries about the release date of a MMGM book you're recommending. We often delve into the past and talk about some of our old favorites.

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    1. Hi, Joanne! Thank you for the great MMGM welcome! :)

      I agree--the one thing I really liked about the book was how the author included the parents in the story, yet left the MC "independent" enough to solve the mystery on her own. It's much nicer than the dead parent syndrome!

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  7. This sounds fun! I always enjoy a good MG read. If you haven't already read John Stephens' Emerald Atlas, definitely add it to you TBR pile. It was one of my fave new discoveries from last year!

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    1. Nicole, it's funny you recommend The Emerald Atlas--it's on my dining room table as I type. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I'm going to get to it in the next week or two. Where did all my free reading time go?

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  8. I do always like seeing how they deal with the parent issue.

    Come by the blog and claim your award! :)

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  9. I'm moving this up on my tbr list.
    Welcome to MMGM :)

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    1. Thanks for the welcome and for the follow, akoss! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

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  10. Totally adding this to my TBR list. This is exactly the book I'd love to read! Thanks for posting :)

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    1. Hey, Juliana! I hope you get a chance to read it and find it as fun as I did! There's something so exciting about being able to freely enter another world yet return home to your own. Adventure combined with the safety of familiarity. :)

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