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Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Release Date: 10/04/2011
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About the Book: Liesl lives in a small attic room where she was banished by her evil stepmother. Liesl didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to her father who recently passed away. So when Liesl discovers a ghost named Po in her attic room, she hopes that Po can get a message to the other side for her father.
Outside the attic room, an alchemist's apprentice is watching Liesl from the street. Will wishes he could be friends with the girl in the attic and his daydreaming causes him to make a mistake-he switches his box of the most powerful magic in the world with the box containing the ashes of Liesl's father.
This sets off a string of events that lead Will, Liesl and Po on an extraordinary journey.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: If you're looking for a book to hand over to middle grade readers who want something that's a lighter fantasy with some adventure, Liesl & Po is a perfect choice. I can see readers who really like this one, loving it to pieces and clutching it to them with each re-read. I think this book will have a dedicated fanbase of tween readers who devour it.
I really like when books have varying storylines that all twist together somehow and Liesl & Po has lots of those! I almost felt the book should have been called Liesl, Po and Will, because Will does play a big part in the story and I liked his eventual friendship with Liesl. There are lots of characters which means lots of stories and action to keep track of, but it never felt like it was too muddled in keeping each story straight. In fact, I felt the stories could have been drawn out even more. There were things that were mentioned that I wished were more fleshed out. What happened to the guards sister? What will happen to the adults in the end? Where did Po come from? I still had questions at the end!
Although I had my questions, the story is a beautiful one with themes of family, friendship, magic and finding peace. The writing is touching and heartwarming with the right touch of humor. The world is a magical one that feels a bit foreign and historical-think Victorian setting-as well as having a touch of today. The characters of Liesl, Po and Will are characters that readers will like and want to see succeed. The kids are good, the bad guys are bad, and things aren't always as they seem. There are some twists that while I found predictable, I think some tween readers will find a surprise. The whole book has a feel of a classic tale with ghosts, greedy adults, and kids looking for a home.
A nice addition to libraries looking to add to their middle grade fantasy collections. It could also be a good read aloud, since I think it would have appeal to both genders-it doesn't lean too "girl read" or "guy read." I would recommend to readers who enjoy fantasy or books that have an old classic storytelling feel to them.
Book Pairings: The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (it references The Graveyard Book on the back of my ARC, so maybe that's why it was in my head while reading!)
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from ARC I picked up at ALA