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Review of Elizabeth and Zenobia

Elizabeth and Zenobia
by Jessica Miller; illus. by Yelena Bryksenkova
Intermediate, Middle School    Amulet/Abrams    202 pp.    g
9/17    978-1-4197-2724-4    $16.99

Elizabeth’s father is gloomy since her mother left; Witheringe House, his childhood home to which he returns with his daughter, is gloomier. Elizabeth’s main company is Zenobia, a vivacious, morbid, obsessed-with-clairvoyance friend who, although no one else can see or hear her, can’t be imaginary because, as Zenobia reminds her, Elizabeth is too dull to have dreamed her up. Zenobia is sure the house contains a “Spirit Presence” (the correct nomenclature for ghosts), and the antics Zenobia initiates do reveal secrets from the house’s past — and then alter that past, with plenty of macabre moments along the way. Readers may never look at mirrors or wallpaper the same way again. The vaguely Victorian setting, the snootily funny exchanges between the title characters, and the frequent references to other, cozier works of literature may lull readers into a false sense of security. Zenobia’s love of Poe gives a better idea of the story’s direction, as do the Gothic-feeling black-and-white illustrations. To be read on dark and stormy nights.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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