Friday, July 1, 2011

Liesl and Po, Lauren Oliver

Sunset was at 5:18, sunset will be at 9:09, -1.06 away from the longest day.

Today is absolutely beautiful. It's July 5, clear skies, all the mountains are out, it's supposed to get into the 80's today and the last few days have all been like this. Summer has arrived. Will it stay? The blackberry petals are falling away from the tight, green berries that will eventually make a really good pie.

I'm waiting for the smell of blackberries in the sun - just the exact scent of summer for me. Hot blackberries, warm hay and the bitter, rank scent of ragwort, the citrus scent of pine trees, the hot, wet scent of rain on concrete. Your favorite summer smells?

a lovely book Liesl and Po is.

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, is a fairytale-like story about loss and discovery, family and friendship. It's also a fun story filled with adventures and chases.

Liesl, a lonely little girl banished to an attic after her father's death, meets a child-sized shape in the corner of her room, accompanied by a pet-sized shape, two shadows from the other side, Po and Bundle. Po and Liesl become fast friends and because of Po she escapes from her attic prison to embark on a journey to say goodbye to her father.

Liesl has sat in the only attic window, drawing, night after night, while a little boy, Will, an alchemist's apprentice, watches her from the shadows on the street, hoping that some day she might see him and say his name. Will has fallen in love with Liesl during late night deliveries of magic for his horrible master, the Alchemist. One night, exhausted from work and watching Liesl, he mixes up the deliveries and has to run away from the Alchemist.

While Po, Bundle and Liesl are trying to get to her father and stay out of her step-mother's clutches, Will sees them get on a train, and follows them, eventually catching up and joining them on their journey.

This is such a good book. I love Po's character - it has been on the other side for so long it no longer remembers who or what it is, only that it is lonely, too. It is a ghost, I guess, and Liesl wants it to help her get a final chance to say the things she couldn't before to the one person in the world who still loved her.

I loved all these characters: the awful people are really awful, reminiscent of Grimm and Andersen, and the others are lonely and need families and friendship. It feels as if Ms. Oliver read the book aloud while writing it, the writing compels you to read faster or quieter, or in a sing-song like a lullaby. I am glad I waited to read the "Dear Reader" letter until after I finished the book, it probably would have changed the way it was read. I think I want to read it again, see if it holds the same secret, whispery feeling of the first time through.

Lauren Oliver is a pretty great author. She's written a couple of other books, Delirium and Before I Fall, and Liesl and Po is completely different from the others. And with only three books on her shelf, we can probably look forward to some really great, interesting stories in the future.

With its lovely language, Liesel and Po would be a wonderful read-aloud for ages 8 and up. (HarperCollins. $16.99. Available October '11.)

Here is Lauren Oliver's website.

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