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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Liesl & Po - Lauren Oliver,  Kei Acedera It's a lovely and touching children's book so lovingly described by Jim. But alas, I think I'm a bit too old and cynical for it to affect me the way I hoped it would. Which is my fault, not the book's, really. "On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost."This is the story of an 11-year-old Liesl, an orphan, who has been locked up in the attic by her evil stepmother (by the way, why are all fairy-tale stepmothers uniformly evil and ugly?). She meets Po, a ghost, an "it" from the Other Side, who has no memory of life on the Living Side. For the touch of the irresistible cuteness, we have Bundle, Po's companion, who may have been a dog or a cat back on the Living Side. And there is also Will, a young alchemist's apprentice, whose unwitting mix-up set the events of the story in motion."People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "it gets lonely to feel things all by yourself.""She liked the word 'ineffable' because it meant a feeling so big or vast that it could not be expressed in words. And yet, because it could not be expressed in words, people had invented a word to express it, and that made Liesl feel hopeful, somehow."This is a story full of melancholy and sadness. No wonder - from the afterword we learn that Lauren Oliver wrote this after a death of her friend, and the grief is palpable through the pages of this story, further illustrated by the beautiful and somehow sad pencil drawings. This is a story of loss and grief, sometimes explicitly stated (Liesl) or just heartbrokenly hinted at (Po and its traces of memories of friendship and being left out). It is the story of childhood that was not full of love and kindness (Will). "Useless was one of the alchemist's favorite words, and he used it interchangeably to describe Will's plans, thoughts, work, appearance, and general selfhood."But it is also a story of hope overcoming sadness, light ultimately winning over the darkness. A story of beautiful sadness, so to speak, the kind that ends up being uplifting and serves as a guiding beacon on the way to ultimate happiness. It is the story I would have adored as a small child. But this is also a story that does not completely ring true to my adult self, calloused by world experience. And this is why.This story is set in the world of greyness, the world from which the sun and brightness has been removed years prior. But in contrast to the greyness of this world, the narration is clearly done in terms of black and white. We know who the good guys are. We know who the bad guys are. They are clearly defined, clearly separated, without much development that suggests growth or evolution or depth that blurs the back-and-white distinction. I guess I miss the in-between, the borderline that gives dimension to the world. But I remember loving having the world defined as 'good' and 'bad' so clearly when I was little. Hey, that's half of the appeal of the Disney movies, after all - the lovely clarity that they bring to our world. But I still missed the greyscale, so to say.The ending - beautiful and satisfying. But given the tone of the story, I was half-hoping for a touch of bittersweet. I think my childhood has been scarred by the ending of Exupery's The Little Prince, when I suddenly realized that the Prince may have not just simply gone back to his planet and his Rose. And that feeling of childhood mental scarring is what somehow was making an adult in me long for a bittersweet ending here. "Two visits to the living side, and the ghost had already become a little more human. Po had remembered how to lie."All that said, I still enjoyed this book very much. The drawings were beautiful. The story was compelling. It is quite quotable. It leaves the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and even my cynical heart knows that sometimes all of us need a bit of that feeling, a bit of something that is uplifting and beautiful, and realism or bittersweetness be damned. And at the end, I gladly give this story 3.5 stars, put it on the imaginary bookshelf meant for my future (hypothetical) daughter, and recommend it easily."And this, really, is the story-within-the-story, because if you do not believe that hearts can bloom suddenly bigger, and that love can open like a flower out of even the hardest places, then I am afraid that for you the world will be long and brown and barren, and you will have trouble finding the light.But if you do believe, then you already know all about magic."