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Lizreader's Blog

Also known as Liz on GR. I am here, but really just planting the seed. I am a student who likes all kinds of books, and I'll be honest about what I think about them.

Currently reading

The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Year of Shadows - Claire Legrand,  Karl Kwasny Katherine Paterson's "The Bridge to Terabithia" + Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" + Neil Gaiman = The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand. I'll get to this equation in a moment. It's been quite a long time since I have read a children's book, or I guess a middle grade book that has made me stop and pause for a moment. The Percy Jackson series, although fun, didn't really deal with a lot of things like this book has. For one, Olivia has to deal with a lot of things many children are facing. The economy. It's a plot point that feels well deserved in this story because it's always the children who get the brunt of it. In this story, Olivia's father, Otto Stellatella a.k.a "The Maestro's" failing orchestra isn't doing well and in turn Olivia and her grandmother, Nonnie, and her father have to live in The Hall until things turn around. Not only does Ms. Legrand deal with real life issues of The economy and its impact on children with little to no income, to father's who are absent in their child's life, to the ups and downs of middle school and the insane amount of hormones that go on there, and to the veiled moments of self harm with the counselors believing that is what Olivia is doing because of her situation (even though it is the ghosts). The ghosts serve as a metaphor for Olivia to come in terms with her life. That she needs friend to help, in order to help herself. She also has Henry and Joan, who are great friends and help her along her journey.She also has adults she can count on like Mr. and Mrs. Barsky and Richard Ashley who help support her and help her when she needs it. Why I wrote the equation I did earlier is that Mrs. Legrand deals with themes that are hard to talk to about with kids. She touches on economic trouble, loneliness, absent parent's (from her father's workholic attitude to her mother leaving her), and feeling like you can't control any aspect and not knowing what is going to happen in the future. This is a book I dearly needed when I was younger.In the tradition of Katherine Paterson, The Year of Shadows looks at the character of Olivia and Henry who become friends and share a same goal of finding the ghosts that same as Jess and Leslie with the ruling of Terabithia. There is a sense of innocence to Henry as well as a real edge to Olivia and they complement each other beautifully just like Jess and Leslie. In the tradition of Madeline L'Engle, the scene with Olivia in Limbo brought me back to the scene where Meg is on Cammonzots and trying to rescue Charles Wallace and how she gets brought back by Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit and she is in despair over not saving her brother. Olivia knows she has a goal to accomplish, but the shades keep trying to break her. To make her give up and to move on, and to scare her. She doesn't give up, but what Mrs. Legrand is doing is looking at adversity and determination and that it is alright to allow our emotions to be seen. This was a really moving part for me. Especially, since we know Olivia has already lost a lot that year, and this isn't making things easier. In the tradition of Neil Gaiman, although not as dark as Mr. Gaiman's work, more whimsical since the ghosts are more like Casper (although the shades are not). There is a simple beauty in the ghosts that help Olivia to come out of her shell. I also think like Mr. Gaiman that Mrs. Legrand has great characters. Friedrich, if there ever was a movie, should be played by Robert Carlyle. An odd choice, but when Friedrich did the arm movement it made me think of him. Although, I'm sure others would work well. If Friedrich wasn't old than I would say Jeremy Irons. Maybe Ewan McGregor? Maybe I'm completely off target...Anyways, I loved the ghosts. They were wonderful and (thankfully) not scary. The book itself can get a little creepy, but it's not too bad.Overall, I really liked this book. The characters were well drawn out and conveyed. I also liked the resolution and ending quite a bit. I loved the classical music selections as I am a fan of orchestra music myself. :)It doesn't get five stars mostly because this was quite a long book and there were a few pacing problems for me, but more minor than anything else. I am also not so sure how much the illustrations helped since they came far and few between, but they were nice. I do recommend this book to anyone who likes good stories that throw you back to what children's literature and middle grades books should be. Well done Mrs. Legrand. Well done. [Also, it doesn't help that the author is super cool and awesome. Although, her work really speaks for itself.]