Lisa Von Drasek
Teachers and librarians are always searching for an ideal read-aloud: a book with a strong narrative voice, rich language and short episodic chapters that appeals to a range of ages. The very best read-alouds manage to get listeners, young or old, emotionally invested in the storywithout, however, inducing them to fits of sobbing along the way. Liesl and Po…is such a story: crowded with distinctive characters and a twisty-turny plot, and rife with words like "ineffable" as well as expletives like "scrat," making it all the more fun to read aloud.
The New York Times Book Review
The sun has not shined for 1,728 days and counting in YA author Oliver’s (Delirium) first book for middle-grade readers, a gloominess that underscores a plot in which adults seek personal gain at the expense of children. Classic fairy tale elements weave throughout this spirited, old-fashioned adventure: a young girl locked in an attic, a wicked stepmother, an alchemist, an orphan boy running from a cruel master. Add two nearly identical boxes—one containing the ashes of 11-year-old Liesl’s recently deceased father, the other holding “the Most Powerful Magic in the World”—and mix them up, and excitement begins to break through the bleakness. Po, a presence from “the Other Side,” brings Liesl a message to bury her father’s ashes underneath a certain willow tree, inspiring her to escape her imprisonment in her stepmother’s attic and head for the train. An exhilarating chase ensues, as characters pursue the runaway children and the mixed-up boxes. Invigorating and hopeful, this novel testifies to the power of friendship and generosity to conquer greed and depression. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
Praise for Before I Fall:“Samantha’s attempts to save her life and right the wrongs she has caused are precisely what will draw readers into this complex story and keep them turning pages until Sam succeeds in living her last day the right way.”
Praise for Before I Fall:“Oliver, in a pitch-perfect teen voice, explores the power we have to affect the people around us in this intensely believable first novel...This is a compelling book with a powerful message and should not be missed.”
The Sunday Telegraph
“Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver brings much-needed magic to an increasingly neglected age group. It’s books like this, with its classic quest plot, intertwined with lyrical metaphysics, that can set a child up for life.”
Daily Mail (London)
“An absolute delight...Although aimed at younger readers, the lightness of touch and the tenderness of the message could make grown men weep.”
“A gorgeous storytimeless and magical.”
Praise for Before I Fall:“This story races forward, twisting in a new direction every few pages, its characters spinning my emotions from affection to frustration, anger to compassion. You’ll have no choice but to tear through this book!”
Praise for Before I Fall:“Before I Fall is smart, complex, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Lauren Oliver has written an extraordinary debut novel about what it means to liveand die.”
“With her third book, Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall; Delirium) creates another highly original world, this one for middle-grade readers. Oliver introduces orphans Liesl and Will, a touch of magic, some delectable coincidences, and friendship that stretches from the Living Side to the Other Side.”
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Liesl's father has died, and she has been locked in an attic by her cruel stepmother. To the attic comes Po, a ghost whose memory of whether it was a boy or a girl has faded in its time in the world beyond. Po meets Liesl's father on the Other Side and carries a message back: he would like his ashes to be buried next to his first wife so that he can move on. In the same town on one fateful night, the apothecary's apprentice, Will, has two errands. The first is to deliver a box containing magic that the apothecary has conjured at the commission of the powerful the Lady Premiere, magic the apothecary claims will bring the dead back to life. The second is to stop by the undertaker's for some magical ingredients. Unwittingly, Will swaps the box of magic with the one containing the ashes of Liesl's father. When the mix-up is discovered, he flees the wrath of the apothecary and the Lady Premiere. Meanwhile, with Po's help, Liesl finds an opportunity to escape the attic and her stepmother. Their paths and destinies converge in an entirely satisfying way, and the plot gains forward momentum through chance encounters and lives crossing paths. This fantasy is written with the gentle simplicity of a fable infused with a storyteller's wisdom. Acedera's black-and-white charcoal illustrations are soft, warm, and somewhat old-fashioned, adding a great deal to the charm and emotion of the story. This is a case in which the illustrations truly enhance the book and make it something more special than it otherwise would have been. A lovely tale.—Tim Wadham, Children's Literature Consultant, Fenton, MO
A wonderfully imaginative, startlingly moving and at times wickedly funny fantasy.
In her first work for middle-grade readers, the versatile Oliver (Before I Fall, 2010, and Delirium, 2011) deftly creates two worlds that run parallel, "like two mirrors sitting face-to-face." On the "Living Side," the sun hasn'tcome out in 1,728 days, and Liesl (about 11) has been locked in a small attic bedroom for 13 months by her conniving stepmother, Augusta. Three nights after her beloved father dies, she is visited by a child-sized ghost named Po and Bundle, a ghost-pet, both of whom come from the "Other Side," where dead souls in various stages of "becoming part of the Everything" linger till they can go "Beyond." They become unlikely best friends, and Po helps Liesl escape so she can take her father's ashes home. Meanwhile... an egomaniacal alchemist whose specialty is potions and transfigurations has created "The Most Powerful Magic in the World" for the Very Important Lady Premiere. "The dead will rise / From glade to glen / And ancient will be young again." But the alchemist's mistreated apprentice Will, an orphan, mixes up the delivery and.... By alternating quietly lyrical, philosophical passages with laugh-out-loud broad comedy/farce, the author takes her readers on a fantastic voyage from loss to healing and joy. With nods to Dahl, Dickens, the Grimms and even Burnett, the author has made something truly original. Acedera's frequent black-and-white illustrations are a perfect complement.
An irresistible read: This book sings. (Fantasy. 8-12)