A wonderfully imaginative, startlingly moving and at times wickedly funny fantasy.
In her first work for middle-grade readers, the versatile Oliver (Before I Fall, 2010, and Delirium, 2011) deftly creates two worlds that run parallel, "like two mirrors sitting face-to-face." On the "Living Side," the sun hasn't come out in 1,728 days, and Liesl (about 11) has been locked in a small attic bedroom for 13 months by her conniving stepmother, Augusta. Three nights after her beloved father dies, she is visited by a child-sized ghost named Po and Bundle, a ghost-pet, both of whom come from the "Other Side," where dead souls in various stages of "becoming part of the Everything" linger till they can go "Beyond." They become unlikely best friends, and Po helps Liesl escape so she can take her father's ashes home. Meanwhile... an egomaniacal alchemist whose specialty is potions and transfigurations has created "The Most Powerful Magic in the World" for the Very Important Lady Premiere. "The dead will rise / From glade to glen / And ancient will be young again." But the alchemist's mistreated apprentice Will, an orphan, mixes up the delivery and.... By alternating quietly lyrical, philosophical passages with laugh-out-loud broad comedy/farce, the author takes her readers on a fantastic voyage from loss to healing and joy. With nods to Dahl, Dickens, the Grimms and even Burnett, the author has made something truly original. Acedera's frequent black-and-white illustrations are a perfect complement.An irresistible read: This book sings. (Fantasy. 8-12)