Review: Behind the Bookcase

Behind the Bookcase - Mark Steensland, Kelly Murphy

Seriously, publishers really need to stop promoting books by relatively unknown authors by saying they are like very popular and/or classic and beloved books.  It’s almost always an unfair comparison that raises expectations to unrealistic levels.

This book is only like “Coraline” or “Alice in Wonderland” in the broadest sense of type – a fantasy story in which a child magically enters a fantasy world.

This does not at all mean it isn’t a good story, it is! It simply means I believe it should be allowed to be enjoyed and appreciated on its own merits, without expectations it will equal books that have reached top-of-the-class status.

Those who have seen my reading lists over the years have probably noticed that there are two kinds of books I am automatically drawn to, and will snatch up when I come across – time travel stories and kids who magically are transported to a fantasy world.  

“Behind the Bookcase” is a solid effort of the second type.  My childhood self would have grabbed this one, if it’d been around at the time, and would have enjoyed it.

Finding a secret passage to a magical, fantasy world in your house?  Absolutely a favorite premise of mine.

“Truth be told: the place looked creepy.  Sarah simply couldn’t believe that anyone she knew-let alone someone from her very own family-could have anything to do with such a house. Never in her life had she seen such a disaster.”

‘”Awesome!” Billy said, with a reverence that thoroughly annoyed his sister.   “What could be awesome about this?” “Look at it,” he said, “It’s like a haunted house.”’

It’s hard to say much without spoilers, but world we visit with Sarah is a highly imaginative and original one.  People there are certainly very strange.  Bathazar, Lefty, Jeb, B. B.  And imaginative places such as the Forest of Shadows and streams of moonlight rather than water.

And seriously, what are we teaching kids these days? If you suddenly find yourself in a world that is not ours, populated with strange people, please do keep in mind that while you may find friends and allies, you also may run into villains pretending to be friendly.

This story did several things that are relatively unique for the type.  One of which is the traveling back and forth from the “real” word several times, and other things I won’t mention because it’d be a bit of a spoiler.  But I really did enjoy this aspect.  It added to the adventure and the tension of the plot.

If you’re one who provides Middle Grade books to a young reader who enjoys fantasy, particularly those where an ordinary kid travels to a fantasy world, where things are a bit creepy and things can get tense, this is definitely one to put on their reading list.  If they’re like I was at that age they can go through them like candy, and are always on the lookout for another to read.

For parents:

The story touches upon a fantasy/fictional place where souls go to sleep after we die.  This of course isn’t reflective of any real religious beliefs.