What You Need to Know:|
• Liesl & Po is Lauren Oliver's first foray into middle grade fiction. She is best known for her YA novels, Before I Fall
• This is a magical, otherworldly read. It has many elements of a fairy tale, including some dark points, but
ultimately hope and the human spirit triumph.
• The main characters are a mix of the living and the dead. The story moves back and forth between the Living World
and the Other Side.
• The publisher, Harper Collins, has a generous Browse Inside feature on their website. You can preview the first
66 pages online! I challenge anyone to read those pages and stop; I am pretty sure you will be running to your
nearest bookstore or E-reader!
Liesl, a young girl, is mourning the loss of her father from her locked room in the attic. The bearer of the key, her evil stepmother, has seen to it that Liesl won't ever see the light of day again. Liesl's attic is in the house she once shared with her father, in a city that is always gray and cold. The city and it's inhabitants haven't seen sunlight in over 1,728 days. Liesl keeps quiet company with the mice and her thoughts, until Po appears from the Other Side. Po is a ghost and is accompanied by a dog/cat named Bundle (also from the Other Side). Po has met the spirit of Liesl's late father who gave him a message and a task to deliver to Liesl. The task will require Liesl to escape and travel to the house of her childhood, far away from the city. Po, somewhat unwillingly, has appointed himself Liesl's helper and guardian.
Across the city, Will, is in a bit of a pickle himself. Will, also an orphan, is saddled with the job of Alchemist's assistant. The Alchemist is up to no good and has entrusted a box of the most potent magic to Will, to deliver to the Lady Premier. But Will loses the box, and the Alchemist and the Lady Premier set out to find him and punish him. While trying to outrun the Alchemist and the Lady Premier, Will's path crosses with Liesl and Po, and their journeys become one.
There is not much more I can say about the plot, because to spoil this magical story would be a giant shame. Lauren Oliver has created a fantasy that had me entranced from beginning to end. It is a fast moving story of mystery and adventure that gets rather grim sometimes, but most fabulous fiction for the young inches into that territory at some point. This story would make a fascinating read-aloud, and would provide very lively discussions.
The story is gorgeously written, so descriptive that the story truly danced in my head. I felt like I was inhabiting Liesl's dark world, and when Po crossed back over to the Other Side, I felt I was right there beside him. That said, if you have a young reader who is easily scared, or "going through" anything right now, I might suggest carefully considering this title before handing it off. Don't skip it, though! Just wait until your reader is ready to face some scary-ish stuff. If you aren't sure, take a look at the (aforementioned) first 66 pages online and decide for yourself if your reader is up for it.
2011, 320 pages
Extraordinary Language, Fairy Tales, Mystery, Excellent Read-Aloud, Illness/Death, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Good Book Club Selection
• What did you think of Liesl, Po and Will's journey?
• Which part of the story made you most upset? Why?
• Which part of the story gave you hope? Why?
• What do you think became of Po and Bundle? Explain your answer.
• Which character in the book did you most identify with? Why?
• Who did you think was the most evil character in the story? Why?
• Who do you think was the bravest character in the story? Why?
• Could you explain the setting of the story? Was it set somewhere in particular or in a particular time? Or no?
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