Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: October 2011
Summary: Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey. (Summary from GoodReads, 12/27/2011)
What I Think: Lauren Oliver has written a ghost story that reminds me of the TV show, the Ghost Whisperer, with a touch of Roald Dahl. I love the characters she creates, especially the adult characters who are nasty and abhor children. There is something so great about characters who despise children. Maybe because it’s okay to dislike them? Most of the time it’s not okay to openly and outright dislike someone in real life – but when a character in a book is that horrible to your protagonist, it gives you license to really root against that antagonist.
Oliver gives readers a chance to experience what it might be like for Liesl, Po, and Will, to have to deal with such despicable adults. I think books that help kids figure out how a character in a book deals with and overcomes nasty adults are so necessary and healthy for kids to read. These books allow kids to experience what the character is experiencing in a non-threatening way. Liesl and Po shows readers how quick and creative thinking can help them.
Another aspect of Liesl and Po that I Oliver handled well was Liesl is mourning her father and trying to deal with his death. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a parent as a child. Liesl not only loses her Dad, but she’s left with her stepmother, who locks her in the attic all by herself. The entire feel of the book and it’s setting at the beginning of the book match Liesl’s mood. The town she lives in personifies her grief. I love how Oliver uses the setting as a metaphor for how Liesl is feeling and how that is intertwined in the entire story. When I read the afterword and learned how Oliver came to write the story about her experiences when a very close friend died, it helped me realize how closely the book might mirror someone’s feelings of grief.
On a side note, it’s always interesting to hear how an author came up with an idea for a book. This book happens to have a great back story that I think is important to share with readers. Sometimes readers don’t read all the parts of the book that come before or after the actual book and it’s important to remind student or children readers that those parts are part of the book and help us understand the book as readers.
Read Alone: 4 - 7
Read With: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda by Roald Dahl
Snatch of Text: "A soft knocking shook Mr. Gray from his reverie. He went to the door of his atelier and looked through the grimy window to the narrow street. He saw nothing but a patch of black hair sprouting at the very bottom of the window. The alchemist’s boy: Billy or Michael or something-or-other, Mr. Gray could never remember. All children were the same to him: strange and sticky and best avoided, like an upright variety of jellyfish." p. 30
Mentor Text For: Mood, Characterization, Making Inferences
Topics Covered: Death, Creativity, Hope, Trust, Kindness, Family, Friendship, Justice