Monday, 28 November 2011
Review: Liesl & Po
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: October 4th, 2011
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy
Liesl has been locked in her attic bedroom by her stepmother ever since her father became ill months ago. A few days after his death, Liesl encounters a ghost in her bedroom. The ghost, Po, is neither male nor female and both at the same time. When Po goes to the Other Side to look for Liesl’s father, he learns that he doesn’t feel he will be able to move to the Beyond until his ashes are scattered with his wife’s. Liesl and Po set out to bring the box holding his ashes to the house where Liesl grew up. Meanwhile, Will, the Alchemist’s apprentice, is making an important delivery and accidentally misplaces the most important magic in the world. The Alchemist has created a complicated spell that involved bottling the sun. Due to his magic, the whole world is a dull grey colour. Will’s mistake leads him to join Liesl and Po in their quest. As the children and the ghost set out to help Liesl’s father move on, they inadvertently bring colour back to their world.
I recently read an article discussing how a children’s book can become a classic. The article brought up some of the obvious things, such as great writing and characters, an interesting and creative plot and setting. The article believed that the most important quality in a book for children is that the book should be about something bigger and more meaningful than it might initially seem to be. Liesl & Po certainly qualifies, based on that. This book is about losing someone you love and having your whole world feel grey and colourless. This book shares a lot of ideas about life and death, and there were some wonderful passages. Lauren Oliver is the writer of Before I Fall and Delirium, and the one thing that these three books have in common is that they’re all beautifully written. Liesl & Po is a wonderful story about a sunless world where ghosts can appear to humans. The characters were vivid and interesting. They live in a dark world where magic is possible. The plot started with a simple idea (a girl tries to help her father be at peace by taking his ashes home) and turned that into an enchanting story that swept me away. This book is one of those examples of me guessing what was going to happen and being completely off. It seems silly now, but I thought that Po was going to turn out to be Mo’s sister, Bella. I thought that she would have gotten confused and given herself a name that rhymed with her brother’s. This turned out to be wrong, and what actually happened worked much better. The story had a fairy tale feel to it, and I loved the magical world that Oliver created. My one complaint is that parts of the ending felt silly and didn't read as smoothly as the rest of the book. The illustrations by Kei Acedera captured the story beautifully. I actually prefer the blue cover that was under the jacket for the book over the brown jacket cover. Perhaps it will be used in the paperback edition. In other reviews I’ve read, Oliver’s explanation of her reasons for writing this book were used as an introduction. In my edition, the author’s note doesn’t appear until the end. I wish I had read it before I started reading Liesl & Po, because I think knowing that this book was written as a way of coping with grief would have added to my reading experience. This book meant a lot to the writer, which was apparent in every page. Oliver created a heartfelt and touching story about coping with loss and seeing the sun again after a long winter.
“Perhaps that was how the sparrows did it too: perhaps they were looking so hard at the peaks and tips of the new rooftops coated with dew, and the vast new horizons, that they only forgot that they did not know how to fly until they were already in midair.”