'Liesl & Po' by Lauren Oliver
"Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist’s apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey."
Liesl is a lonely little girl who has been locked away in an attic by her nasty stepmother, after the death of her father. One night she meets a ghost named Po and it’s pet Bundle. Po and Bundle are visiting from The Other Side (a kind of limbo where the dead go before they can move Beyond) and Po says that it will try and find Liesl’s father and tell him that she misses him and ‘good-bye’. I love this passage from page 45 where Po tries to explain how people on The Other Side blur and lose themselves;
“The ghost did not want the girl to get her hopes up. It might not even recognise Liesl’s father if it saw him again; by then, Liesl’s father might not recognise himself. He might have begun to blur, letting the infinity tug on him gently from all sides, like sand being pulled by an eternal tide. He might have already begun the process of becoming part of the Everything. He would begin to feel the electricity from distant stars pulsing through him like a heartbeat. He would feel the weight of old planets on his shoulders, and he would feel the winds of distant corners of the universe blowing through him.” (Liesl & Po p45)
Meanwhile Will, a young alchemist’s assistant is running errands when he makes a detour to look a Liesl through her attic room window. Because of his detour he performs his errands in a different order, going to collect ingredients from Mr Grey, the undertaker, first. He then delivers the alchemist’s box of powerful magic to the formidable Lady Premiere afterwards. But Will has made a terrible mistake. While at Mr Grey’s he put the box of magic down and accidentally picked up the box of Liesl’s fathers ashes which he delivers to the Lady.
“Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches. And so a story is born.” (Liesl & Po p35)
Liesl wants to take her father’s ashes to the willow tree by her old house to bury them next to her mother. Little does she know that she is actually carrying the box of magic that the Lady Premiere and the alchemist desperately want back. Liesl and Will are thrown together and set out on a journey pursued by a variety of adults all with their own agendas.
I thought this was such a lovely story. It was fast-paced with lots of adventure but was also a really beautiful tale about friendship and love. I think it gives hope that even the loneliest of children living in sad circumstances can find friends.
I adored the beautiful illustrations by Kei Acedera. They are honestly some of the best works of art I've ever seen in a children's book and they really added to the story.
This is such a wonderful book for both children and adults and I’ll definitely be re-reading it in the future.
I’ll leave you with another quote that I loved and think we can all relate to:
“(That was the kind of world they lived in: When people were afraid, they did not always do what they knew to be right. They turned away. They closed their eyes. They said, Tomorrow. Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll do something about it. And they said that until they died.)” (Liesl & Po p96)
I would give this book 5 stars :)
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book and what you thought of it!