Liesl and Po
By: Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Genre: middle grades fantasy
Source: I own it
It takes a certain measure of brilliance to write a sweet story that a reader can pat after reading, pronouncing it "nice"- and then that reader continues to think about the subtle nuances of the characters and structure of the writing for days afterward. Lauren Oliver, with several such books under her belt, is a brilliant writer. I think I may want to be her when I grow up.
Liesl is a sweet young girl who is befriended by Po, a ghost who visits Liesl because it likes her drawings. Liesl has been banished to an attic room by her step-mother, following her father's death. She is admired from afar by a poor apprentice named Will. One night Will is making a delivery for his master, when he decides to walk past Liesl's window. What follows is an intricately-woven series of coincidences and happenstance that leads all the good characters to their happy ending, and all the evil characters to their just reward.
As an adult reader, Liesl and Po feels like a fairy tale remembered from childhood. The characters seem like familiar stock characters, yet they are not carbon copies lifted from other stories. The epic journey in the book is the classic symbol for the journey of self-discovery. The world in which the story takes place is one that is severe in how children are dealt with, and yet, somehow soft around the edges. The whole thing goes down like a homemade gingersnap and a glass of milk- sweet and satisfying.
When considering the intended audience, it becomes clear that my fourth grader may well love this book for completely different reasons. Her world is becoming laced with incidents of people being cruel to others. She still believes in the possibility of not only seeing a ghost, but in making friends with one. She dreams of being idolized from below by a sweet boy while she gazes out her window above. And her daddy means the whole world to her- so carrying what's left of him across a vast expanse to a place she barely remembers is a task she would willingly take on. She will identify with this story so closely that it may well change her ineffably, in the most glorious ways.
I will be buying that fourth grader her own copy of this book, to have and to hold. She can't have mine.
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.