Say you’re a creative young girl with two flighty, yet brilliant, mathematicians for parents. Say you also move into a giant manor house that someone just died in, an old lady with no family who left all her stuff behind. One day while you’re exploring, you discover a pair of glasses, a very special pair of glasses, which lead you on a twisting and turning adventure into Elsewhere. Elsewhere, you learn, is the world that exists inside the paintings which cover the walls. Each painting is different and leads to new and interesting places (or sometimes just to a bowl of fruit). Then you meet the talking cats: Horatio, Leopold and Harvey. And you start to uncover some startling secrets about your house and the people who used to live there: they were witches, dark witches. And they may not be completely gone from Elsewhere or the real world. This is Olive Dunwoody’s life, and it couldn’t be crazier.
The Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West reminds me strongly of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The premise is similar: an eccentric, lonely girl moves into a new house and finds a passage into an alternate world. They both even have talking cats. After the story is established, however, Olive holds her own. It begins with the first book, The Shadows, where Olive is introduced to this new world and the dangers it brings. In Spellbound, she uncovers more secret powers hidden in the house and learns the consequences of using them. The house has further temptations for Olive in Second Spy, and she doesn’t know who can be trusted, or even if she can be trusted. The latest in the series is The Strangers, and Olive has to decide who is willing to help her fight the evil that Olive has (accidently) unleashed and who just wants the power of the house for themselves.
This series will be loved by any grade school age (and up!) child with an active imagination and a healthy dose of curiosity.