Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver Liesl & Po

320 pp.  Harper (HarperCollins)  2011  ISBN: 978-0-06-201451-1

Release Date: October 4, 2011

Interest: First middle grade title from YA author

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

During some conversations I had with my freshmen last school year, I discovered that many of them still enjoy middle grade titles, especially fantasy and action/adventure titles.  Since then I’ve been making a point of seeking titles like these out and reading them.  When I heard about Liesl & Po, and that it’s written by Lauren Oliver, I knew I had to read it.  Truth–I think I like this book more than Before I Fall.

Lauren Oliver has a note in the very beginning of the ARC (I hope it’s in the finished copy as well) explaining why she wrote this book.  It’s incredibly moving and something I thought back to many times while reading this book.  I’d rather not go into detail about the note, though, because I think you should experience it for yourself.  It made reading the book feel more personal, and I appreciate that sort of honesty from an author.

The illustrations by Kei Acedera are fantastic!  I wasn’t expecting any art, so it was a very pleasant surprise and experience.  I like that they’re paced throughout the novel and I like the style used to create the setting & characters.  I’m not very good with art/drawing terminology, so please forgive my ignorance on this.  The drawings felt like how I would see the characters if this book were made into an animated Disney movie or something.  But the shading and everything also felt whimsical.  I may not be making any sense, but regardless, I love the illustrations.  They added an element that made the story come alive.  I wish more books could include illustrations, MG and YA alike.

Another element I love about this book is the cast of characters.  Liesl is sweet and caring, but also full of adventure.  Po is mysterious, but I love that it looks out for Liesl and begins to feel human emotions again.  I also couldn’t get enough of Po’s wit and one-liners, especially when Will, the alchemist’s assistant, enters the scene.  Liesl & Po forge an unusual friendship, but it’s ultimately one of trust and understanding.  There’s also a few villains, of course.  Liesl’s stepmother is truly horrible; she has Liesl locked up in an attic and barely feeds her.  The Lady Premiere, who expects to receive the box of magic, rivals Liesl’s stepmother in the evilness category.  These characters, along with others, made for a fantastic story full of magic and hope despite all the gray.

Lauren Oliver has written a story that children, tweens and teens will appreciate and enjoy.  There are plenty of universal themes like loneliness, the importance of family, grieving, etc.  This is another title that I’m excited to share with my students, and I’m equally excited to buy a finished copy.

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