About the Book

Title: Liesl & Po
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Hardcover Only
BFF Charm: Makin’ It Rain!
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Whimsically Lovely
Bonus Factors: Hero Journey, Bundle, Mr. Norrell
Relationship Status: My Shoulder To Cry On

Cover Story: Hardcover Only

I love this cover! Its design is simple, yet nods to the middle-grade, fantasy contents with the rich illustrations of our main characters.

That said, this is the kind of book that should only ever be a hardcover. If I were in charge of bookmaking, this book would be leather-bound, with gilt-edged pages and a weighty spine. This is the sort of book that is meant to be passed on through generations: a parent patiently reading to a child; a child patiently reading it to its parents; that same child reading it to his or her kids later on down the road. I want weight! I want heft! I want to be able to use this book as a sandwich press, dangit!

The Deal:

In a world where the sun has not shone in 1200 days, Liesl is mourning the death of her father. Trapped in an attic room by her wicked stepmother, Liesl has nothing and no one . . . until Po appears. Po is from the Other Side, where people who were once alive are now part of everything and everyone. They have no sex or gender, no real mass or distinction. When Liesl asks Po to find her father on the Other Side, Po promises to try. It overhears Liesl’s dad wishing he could return to the lake where he once was happy with his first wife and little Liesl, so now Liesl is determined to return his ashes to that spot.

There is, however, a small problem. Unbeknownst to Liesl and Po, the alchemist’s apprentice, young Will, mixes up the box with Liesl’s father’s ashes and the box the alchemist instructed him to deliver to The Lady Premiere, the box that contains the world’s most powerful magic.

As Liesl, Po and Bundle (part dog, part cat, all awesome) bring their offering to the willow tree by the lake, Will flees to avoid the fury of the Alchemist. The Lady Premiere wants her box of magic. And the Lady Premiere’s guard just wants Will to wear a hat.

Mix-ups, coincidences, near-misses and crossed paths intertwine to make this book one of the most magical and heartbreaking stories about saying good-bye that you’ll ever read.

BFF Charm: Makin’ It Rain

BFF charm holding an umbrella

Who WOULDN’T I give my BFF charm to? Obvs I’m handing out my BFF charm to the lonely, fractured Liesl, whose bravery and determination in the face of grief makes me want to alternately cuddle her up and ask for lessons on how to handle my own. I’d dip one in platinum for little lost Will, who just needs a sandwich and a warm place to sleep. Po and Bundle would both get one each, provided they could wear them (I’m a little unsure about the rules of the noncorporeal and whether they can wear accessories), and since Mo carries a cat around with him ALL THE TIME, he’d get the biggest BFF charm of all. One that the kitty could play with!

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This is a middle-grade book. Although Will – and maybe Po – have middle-grade crushes on Liesl, this is ultimately a book about a girl who wants to bury her father. No swoonytimes allowed!

Talky Talk: Whimsically Lovely

Oh, this book. I think maybe Lauren Oliver might be a witch? Or at least once sold her soul at the Crossroads in order to write books? I don’t know; I’m just spitballing here. But how else can she manage to reinvent herself everytime she writes a book? This book isn’t the so-realistic-it-hurts Before I Fall; it isn’t the dystopic treatise on love like Delirium. What it is is part fairy-tale, part eulogy – a love letter to loss and an invitation to believe in the magic of more.

What Oliver’s writing always has in common, though, is that it is evocative:

Now that Liesl was out of the attic, it was easier for her to climb downthe towers of memory. She closed her eyes and thought of snow peaked high like whipped cream (ineffable snow, snowy peaked f’s, her mind said). She thought of the taste of ice melting on her tongue, and two spots of red on her father’s cheeks, and the stamping of boots, and the smell of woodfire.

“North,” she said.

Bonus Factor: Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey’s been dragged through the mud recently; it seems everyone is tired of the storytelling device. But this is a true hero’s journey – Liesl, Po, Will and Bundle start out on their path with nothing but determination. They end as heroes do – they save the world.

Bonus Factor: Bundle

Dear Lord, I want Bundle as my very own. All my life, all I’ve ever wanted is a cat/dog hybrid. You know, something that could look after itself much of the time (like a dog), but could curl itself on you when it senses you need some comfort (like a cat!). Why can’t Bundle exist in real life?! Oh, yeah, cause it’s dead. Fine then, can’t someone animate me a damn cat/dog hybrid??

Bonus Factor: Mr. Norrell

I talk a lot about how Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of my favorite books of all time BECAUSE IT IS. And I love anything or anyone which reminds me of that book, and the alchemist in Liesl and Po reminds me SO MUCH of Mr. Norrell. Obsessed with being taken seriously and having people of importance at his beck and call, the alchemist strides around officiously, never caring what dastardly deals he makes so long as he can become famous.

Relationship Status: My Shoulder To Cry On

Here’s the thing, Book. I have been through a lot of loss. Like, a lot. Like, more than seems normal for a person my age. I’m going to a funeral tomorrow, in fact. I keep telling people that they really shouldn’t befriend me, because it usually doesn’t work out well for them, what with the sudden loss of life and all. And you just may be one of the few books that really understands me.

I’m being flippant about this because to be otherwise is overly maudlin for an internet blog, but suffice it to say that I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my life. You’re one of the few books that gets it – that understands the all-encompassing grief, the feelings of inadequacy, the need to do something else, something to somehow fix the problem or right the problem or fill the gaping hole in your heart. I have a feeling that the next time someone I love dies, you’re going to be the shoulder I end up crying on.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy at BEA. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Liesl and Po is available in stores now.

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.