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 has been locked in the attic by her evil stepmother for 13 months, this was bearable until Liesl’s father died without her getting to say goodbye to him. Now the life that Liesl tolerated has been turned upside down. She doesn’t take pleasure in drawing anymore and is simply “existing” instead of “living.” One night a ghost named Po and its pet named Bundle visit Liesl. These two are not what you would think when you hear the word “ghost,” Po is neither a girl nor a boy and Bundle is neither a cat nor a dog, they simple are. Liesl forms a friendship with these two and they assist her in escaping from her stepmother’s clutches, stealing her father’s ashes and taking off to a town far away so that she can bring her father “home.” As Liesl is living this adventure there is a young boy named Will, the apprentice to an alchemist who has just created the “most powerful magic in the world.” Will has a mission to deliver this magic to someone very important but he misplaces it and there is much confusion that follows. His adventure becomes entwined with Liesl’s adventure and many other characters are thrown into the mix.
Liesl & Po was an absolutely lovely story. Lauren Oliver really has a way with words and I found myself reading parts of the story out loud to people around me because some of the lines from the novel were very thought invoking and all together beautifully written. This story centers around death, neglect and forms of abuse yet the way in which it was written really focused on the hope, love and joy of the characters presented. Some of my favorite parts are the interactions between Liesl and Po. For example, after Po comes back to Liesl with information on her father Liesl is very agitated at Po’s lack of enthusiasm, which he brushes off as him being tired…
“I’m very sorry to hear you are tired,” she said stiffly, her inside voice screaming: Tell me what you know about my dad! Tell me or I’ll kill you again! I’ll make you a double ghost!
“What does that mean? What does it mean to say you’re sorry?”
Liesl groped for words to describe it. “It means – it means what it means. It means that I feel bad. It means that I wish I could make you untired.”
Po flipped upside down and righted itself, still obviously confused. “But why should you wish anything for me?”
“It’s an expression,” Liesl said. Then she thought hard for a minute. “People need other people to feel things for them,” she said. “It gets lonely to feel things all by yourself.”
Oliver hit it right on the nose at that moment for me; misery loves company and so forth. There were many moments like this in the story, the book was well written and it provided a nice backdrop to the middle grade novel with characters so young. It is also important to note that the author wrote this novel after losing someone very close to her and she explains how the story helped her to heal. I have lost someone close to me as well and I have to say that this story shed a new whimsical light on something that cuts deep.
Though there were illustrations that made the physical book very appealing, the audio book is read by Jim Dale and from what I have heard he gives a magnificent performance. This book comes highly recommended it’s a sweet story and overall made me ineffably happy.