Liesl and Po

4 stars (I really liked it)

Liesl & Po cover (link to Goodreads)

I’m not sure what to call the subgenre that Liesl and Po fits into, but I recognized it immediately. It’s a stylized Victorian England where everything is sooty, adults are self-centered and horrid, and children are suffering but still full of wonder and goodness. Sometimes there’s magic or other supernatural elements. The movie The Box Trolls is a classic example:

Both child leads in Liesl & Po are being abused, but Liesl befriends a ghost named Po, who begins to change her life, and meanwhile Will (a delivery boy) accidentally ends up in possession of the most powerful magic in the universe, and when the three of them (Liesl, Po, and Will) team up, they find a way to defeat the villainous adults in their lives and achieve their own happily ever after.

A bit dark for my tastes (I feel like that was the theme of 2020, which makes me wonder if dark books are the problem or if it was 2020 that was too dark for me to want more dark in my books). I recommend this for kids who like things a little spooky and/or gritty. I’m thinking fans of Roald Dahl or Coraline (or Box Trolls).

Review: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

5 stars (I loved it!).

Nevermoor cover (link to Goodreads)

Forgive the teeny-tiny cover image.

Everyone knows Morrigan Crow is cursed to die on her eleventh birthday and to make bad things happen to those she comes in contact with until then. But when, on the eve of her 11th birthday, she is recruited for several jobs that she can’t possibly do after she’s dead–and by some rather mysterious and very interesting people, no less!–her life begins to change in completely unpredictable ways.

There are twists upon twists. Morrigan’s mentor reminds me of a ginger-bearded David-Tennant-as-10th-Doctor. Very energetic, cryptic, and zany. The world is magical and a bit steampunky and a bit Harry Potter. Much of the feel of everything reminded me of Harry Potter (specifically book 4), but there was enough that was unique that it didn’t feel totally derivative. The prevailing emotion throughout is wonder–that “Wow! So cool!” feeling that J. K. Rowling so often gets just right.

I immediately recommended the book to my picky 11 year old, and he devoured it and the second book in the series. We’re eagerly awaiting the third, which comes out this spring.

I can’t guarantee your kids will like this book, but if they like Harry Potter, City of Ember, Doctor Who, or Aru Shah, chances are good they’ll like this too.