Around Halloween, everyone likes to cozy up with a spooky book and this just might be the perfect one for the older set of middle grade readers (10 and up). Kicking off The Books of Elsewhere, The Shadows (Puffin, 2011) from debut author Jacqueline West whisks us away to a creepy world within some mysterious and magical artwork.
11-year-old Olive and her two mathematics obsessed parents move into the run-down mansion that is just as spooky inside as out. Seems the previous owner has died and left everything in it, including the artwork hanging on the walls. Olive immediately spots something strange about the paintings but she can't quite figure what is off about them, until she finds a pair of old spectacles that allow her to crawl into the paintings ... and into the world of Elsewhere.
As if that wasn't weird enough, she meets three talking cats that guard the house, and provide clues to what happened in the past. But as the house's mystery reveals itself, Olive starts to wonder whether the cats are really on her side, and whether the land inside the paintings is enchanting or dangerous.
Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, The Shadows will most definitely raise a few goosebumps, leaving readers eager for the continuation of Olive's story in Volume 2 Spellbound. The third in the series is set to release next summer. Thanks go out to spooky author herself, Jennifer Judd, for recommending the series. Loved it!