2010 Debut Author Challenge
This is one of very few middle-grade offerings from debut authors this year and it is such a great read. My younger sister effectively swiped this after I brought it home and finished it before I did.
Part spooky mystery, partly a journey of growth, it is entirely enjoyable and fun, with some nice touches of humor and emotion amidst all the spookiness. Olive Dunwoody is eleven years old, friendless and recently moved into an old house in a new town. She is the daughter of two very skilled math prodigies, though she herself has no affinity for mathematics. But Olive soon notices some very strange things about her new home. For one thing, the strange paintings throughout the house cannot be removed from the walls. Also, several large talking cats seem to inhabit the house. And then on one of her explorations throughout the house, Olive finds a pair of spectacles that allow her to enter into the paintings. The only problem is that once she is on the other side, she discovers that there is a malevolent force that wants her gone from this house and may just happen to be the cause of a series of disappearances in the neighborhood over the years. Olive has to learn about friendship and courage and determination and I cannot wait to see what Jacqueline West writes next.
The writing was simple, but with with a funny streak. The characters, esp. the cats, all enjoyable, although many are bot well-fleshed out, though hopefully with the progression of the series this will become less of an issue. One of the aspects I enjoyed most about this story was how likeable Olive's endearing parents were in all their arithmetical glory. They may a bit unobservant, but it never comes across as negligence or dislike. That is a precious rare thing to find in kids books. I would gladly recommend this to anyone looking for a good middle-grade read, esp. a mystery. Girls will probably like it better, but it is not girly, per se, although obviously the main protagonist is a young girl.