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This is a ripping yarn with a big heart and a lot of wit and invention.
“The Strangers,” by Jacqueline West (Dial Books for Young Readers, 308 pages, $16.99, ages 8-12)
This is the fourth volume in the series “The Books of Elsewhere.” For readers who would like some back story, the website www. thebooksofelsewhere.com will supply it.
The series recounts the adventures of Olive Dunwoody (and her distracted mathematician parents) in their old stone house on Linden Street, which is rather aggressively occupied by the various astral projections of the former owners, the McMartin family. The house contains portals in the form of paintings to the mysterious realm Elsewhere; Olive has access to these through a pair of glasses she has found in Agnes McMartin’s old room. Agnes would like the specs back — badly. Just how badly is what drives the propulsive plot of this episode in Olive’s ongoing adventures.
Olive and her allies (the wise cats who are her familiars, the little boy Morton who is strangely stranded between this world and the other, and some new friends) are ranged against the power of Agnes and her legions of spirits. Olive must deal with the kidnapping of her parents and some serious treachery.
Jacqueline West has created a world in which a quite normal middle-schooler goes to school, enjoys a good Halloween party, worries about making friends and foils the undead on the side. Olive’s a kind of Nancy Drew of the occult, and her story has much of that series’ salted-peanut addictiveness.
Ann Klefstad is an artist and writer in Duluth.