by Lauren Oliver
illustrated by Kei Acedera
Reading level: MG
Book type: illustrated prose novel
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.
From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, so I wanted to read something fun. I read Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall a few years ago, and really enjoyed it; the story and message were great, and the writing was solid. I've been wanting to read something else by the author for ages, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to start another trilogy. So when I saw Liesl & Po, a stand-alone title, at the library, I thought I'd give it a try.
This is a very cute book. Though it's technically a middle-grade title, it has a timeless sort of quality to it, reminiscent of some classic children's books, that makes it seem like it would appeal to a much broader age range. It appears to take place in a setting that's somewhat similar to Victorian Europe, which did make references to getting "wires crossed" and airplanes a bit jarring... but it's technically a fantasy world, so who knows?
The villains (and there are a few) seem like they'd be right at home in a Dickens novel. The protagonists are Liesl, a lonely little girl who has been shut up in an attic by her stepmother, and Will, an orphan who is the apprentice to an alchemist. Despite what the title might lead one to believe, the story is really about Liesl and Will (though Po does play an important role).
I have very few complaints about this book. For what it is, it's very good. I do, however, wish we'd gotten to know more about the ghosts: Po (who is neither a boy nor a girl, but perhaps both) and Bundle (Po's pet, who is neither a dog nor a cat, but perhaps both). I loved those two characters, and the descriptions of the Other Side were so imaginative and interesting that I really wanted to know more about those two and how they ended up where they did. I'm sure there is an equally good story there, just waiting to be told.
And I have to mention the illustrations. They are absolutely adorable. One of the first drawings was of Will in his oversized overcoat and crazy hair, and I had a hard time not saying, "Aww!" out loud. The illustrator really captured the flavour of the story, and the pictures only enhanced the text.
I'm really glad I finally got a chance to read this book. It was delightful and charming and now I feel like I want to go and have a mug of hot chocolate to keep the warm fuzzies going. I highly recommend this one!
Liesl was relieved. "I'll draw you a train," she said passionately. She loved trains—the sound of them, at least. She heard their great horns blasting and the rattle of their wheels on the track and listened to them wailing farther and farther away, like birds calling to one another in the distance, and sometimes she confused the two sounds and imagined the train had wings that might carry its passengers up into the sky.
Recommended to: readers who enjoy well-written stories with a touch of magic
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.43 out of 5 ladybugs