Awkward, unintelligent, unpopular Olive Dunwoody moves into a new house with her nerd parents, and soon discovers something very strange: there are paintings that are alive, with people living inside. Olive soon discovers that she can enter the paintings and travel to other worlds, or return to her house.
But there's something more sinister going on. The paintings were created by a lunatic with magic powers, and that individual doesn't want Olive, or anyone, to leave. The people inside the paintings themselves include both those created specifically for the paintings, and normal people who got trapped and eventually had their bodies turn into paint. If Olive isn't careful, the same might happen to her.
With the help of some talking cats that live in the house, Olive decides to get to the bottom of this mystery.
This book series contains examples of:
- Book Dumb: Unusually so for a girl protagonist, Olive is not smart and doesn't like school.
- Cats Are Snarkers: Olive's first encounter with one of the cats in particular is a perfect example of this.Olive: "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."Cat: "That's not my name. [...] How would you like it if I called you Girly, Girly, Girly?"
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: One of the cats likes to pretend to be various fictional characters or character types, such as a pirate or a Musketeer, and often talks like them.
- HeelFace Turn: Implied to have happened before the events of the story. The cats were originally the familiars of a warlock (a male witch) who trapped people inside paintings, but they started disobeying orders.
- Portal Fantasy: While there's a Mysterious House setting, much of the story is about what happens in the portals.
- Portal Picture: Paintings serve as transports to thematically similar worlds.