I have to go away, and I may not be
able to get back. If I don't return, then my
workshop and all it contains is yours if you
can find it--and if you can find it, then
you're the right sort of boy to have it.
Your uncle Tony
P.S. Start in the telephone booth on
Back cover: When ten-year-old Stuart stumbles upon a note daring him to find his great uncle's hidden workshop, full of wonderful mechanisms, trickery, and magic, he sets out on a Willy Wonka-like adventure of a lifetime. In order to find the place, Stuart must believe the unbelievable--while dodging the annoyingly prying eyes of his triplet neighbors, April, May, and June. With clues to follow, puzzles to solve, and the quirkiest characters, this uniquely charming fiction debut by comedienne Lissa Evans is sure to enchant middle-grade readers--and believers--everywhere.
Stuart Horten is tens-years-old and short for his age. This is unusual since both his parents are "very tall." They are also clever people, hence Stuart's name: S. Horten. Mom is a researcher in the medical field and Dad is a cruciverbalist--writer of crosswords puzzles--and he loves to
speak words any kid would consider odd and embarrassing.
I was just thinking of going for a brief perambulation.
This whole area was sylvan.
An epistle for you, said his father, placing the envelope on the table.
This clever insertion of difficult and unusual words, with the definition placed in the dialogue, all without stopping a beat in the flow of the story, reminded me of the Lemony Snicket series A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The Horten's move away from the home Stuart treasures. He will also miss all the parties his friends have already planned for the summer. To say the least, he is one unhappy kid when forced to move. The family returns to Beeton, the child home of Stuart's dad. In Beeton, Stuart cannot find any other kids to play with and becomes bored and snarly with his parents. Still, the first day brings him an adventure he will never forget.
One day, Stuart's Great Uncle Tony disappeared. The young man simply vanished. Before he evaporated that Christmas Eve, Tony went to Stuart's father's home, but he was asleep. He left the then boy a small coin box. Mr. Horten still has the box, using it to hold paper clips. Stuart finds a fake bottom on the box and opens it. Inside are enough coins to keep them from rattling. The adventure of a lifetime, meant for one young Horten, but taken on by another many years later, begins. Would it even be possible to find clues or the workshop after all these years?
Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms is the debut novel from Lissa Evans. Ms. Evans has written a smart, convoluted adventure for Stuart. It was nearly impossible to lie down this page turner, before finishing. The adventure segments and clues are ingeniously linked together leading to an impossible climax that will have every reader thinking "The workshop was there, all this time?"
I love the tone of the book. I liked the pacing, the rhythms of sentences, and the distinctive voices of each character, including the town of Beeton. Beeton residents are quirky characters, some deliciously fun, others delightfully ruthless. Stuart takes on the mystery of his Great Uncle Tony's disappearance--as is a ruthless magician who wants Tony's workshop full of secrets. Add in identical triplet girls, who follow Stuart trying to get a story for their homemade neighborhood newspaper, and you have a book that middle grade kids will devour.
The year 2012 is proving to be a year full of wonderful debut novels for many new authors. Lissa Evan's Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms is near the top of that growing list. Guerdons, please!
book courtesy of the publisher, Sterling Publishing