Magic, Mystery & a Very Strange Adventure
Review posted June 17, 2013.
Sterling Children's Books, 2012. 270 pages.
Here's a truly fun story with a magical twist on being the new kid in town. Stuart Horten -- S. Horten -- Always called "Shorten" -- is very short. His parents are extremely clever, but not very sensible, and they move to a new town right at the start of the summer, so Stuart doesn't have any chance to make new friends. They move to Beeton, the town where Stuart's father grew up, and in town are the ruins of the old factory where Stuart's great-uncle Tony manufactured magic tricks -- before he disappeared.
Stuart turns up a puzzle from Great-Uncle Tony that leads to a mystery that leads him all over town. Tony was a fine magician, and Stuart can't help but wonder what really happened when he disappeared.
The big strength of this book is the quirky characters: Stuart's father, who always uses big words; the identical triplet girls next door who see themselves as investigative journalists; and the people in the town whom Stuart meets along the way. The puzzle is engaging and keeps you going.
Now, I wasn't quite believing in the ending, or that the puzzle would have survived the passage of years as well as it did. But I think I'm probably a more difficult audience on that front than most kids, and the story-telling itself was outstanding. The book reminded me of my beloved Edward Eager books -- ordinary kids spending a summer tinged with magic.