The second installment of The Books of Elsewhere (The Shadows, 2010) is a by-the-book fantasy follow-up.
Olive has yet to find a solution to the last plot thread left over from the first volume—Morton is trapped, unable to rejoin the world outside of the McMartins' enchanted paintings. Meanwhile, the Linden Street setting is enriched through greater focus on Olive's neighbors, especially new kid Rutherford Dewey. When Olive inexplicitly blurts out the McMartin family's magical secret to Rutherford, he educates her on witches' grimoires. Olive is sure that Aldous McMartin's spellbook holds the key to helping Morton, despite her suspicions about Rutherford—he seems to know too much—and the fact that she'd be playing with an evil wizard's spellbook. The ancient McMartin grimoire is as old as the plot device of the untrustworthy magical object. Furthermore, Olive often acts as a slave to plot contrivances rather than as a character. The characters do not trust each other enough to communicate basic information, leading to arbitrary misunderstandings cleared up just in time for a climax that resolves little. Fortunately, zany cat Harvey's multiple characters and Rutherford's set of quirks help pull the story out of Olive's pace-slowing introspection.Definitely the middle of the story, designed to set up further conflicts and sequels for readers already invested in the series. (Fantasy. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Gr 4-6--This sequel to The Shadows (Dial, 2010) picks up with Olive Dunwoody still trying to discover the many secrets hidden in the old Victorian house she and her parents have moved into. She has her dependable sidekicks, three lively talking cats that manage to keep her from hurting herself when she is possessed by the spirit of the mysterious book that she discovers. She realizes that she could use it to release Morton, a boy who has been imprisoned in a painting for many years by the house's former owners. Olive comes to the shocking realization that the spellbook has forced her to do various deeds while she has been sleeping. This realization is brought to a head when one of her cat protectors manages to wake up her up just before she jumps to her death. Has she not only put her life in jeopardy but also any chance of saving Morton? Who has directed the spellbook to possess Olive and why? These questions and many more will keep young readers engaged as the mystery unfolds. Olive matures in the story; her emotions, including remorse, are genuinely portrayed, and relationships with the cats and with her quirky neighbor, Rutherford, ring true. Some chapters drag a little but overall this is a suspenseful read that leaves plenty of room for the next title in the series. While it stands on its own, it will be enjoyed most by readers familiar with the first book. Occasional full-page, black-and-white drawings are appropriately dark and mysterious.--Julie Shatterly, W.A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC[Page 176]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.