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Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure Hardcover – Apr 3 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (April 3 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402798067
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402798061
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 13.3 x 18.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #163,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Wacky, funny and ever so mysterious, this clever tale hits the ground running and never lets up.
Very short 10-year-old Stuart Horten—S. Horten, get it?—thinks he’s facing a long, boring summer when his parents pack the three of them up and move to his father’s hometown as school lets out. His parents are a pleasantly oblivious pair: His mom is an unimaginative doctor, and his father designs crosswords for a living. (He joyfully tosses around hundred-dollar words like 'prestidigitator' and 'perambulation.') Stuart quickly discovers the long-abandoned home of his great uncle Teeny-Tiny Tony Horton, a famous magician who disappeared 50 years before, and the puzzle box left to his incurious father. Resourceful Stuart wants to learn more, but he’s plagued by the girl next door, who’s intently following him everywhere. Just as a fabulous clue appears in a vandalized phone booth, the prying girl, April, shows up, and it turns out she’s identical twins—oh, no! triplets—April, May and June. And they’re shortly followed by the villainous, entrepreneurial Jeannie, hot on Stuart’s heels. The pace is rapid, the clues to Tony’s disappearance are intriguing and the characters are vividly—often hilariously—drawn. Irony runs hand in hand with just enough believable danger to create palpable tension.
A vastly engaging, must-read mystery infused with the perfect touch of captivating conjuration—er, magic." --Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) 
“Evans borrows several classic tropes and themes-magic, riddles, a quest, and even a night at a museum-for the entertaining story of 10-year-old Stuart Horten (often nicknamed “Shorten” for his small stature) who stumbles into a family mystery when he and his parents move to the small British town of Beeton. There, Stuart discovers that his Great-Uncle Tony Horten, who disappeared years ago without a trace, was both an inventor of mechanical devices and a magician. A chance phone call in a broken phone booth is the first step in a journey that leads Stuart around town, as he unearths his great-uncle's legacy and secrets. Stuart also draws the attention of April, May, and June (the journalistically inclined triplets next door), as well as Beeton residents with more sinister intentions. Evans has crafted an old-fashioned mystery of the kids-besting-clueless-adults variety. Stuart's dweeby parents are particularly hapless (his father, a crossword puzzle creator, regularly drops lines like “Behold, I bring hydration for your powwow”). First published in the U.K., Evans's story leaves the door open for the sequel due in September.” --Publishers Weekly

“Stuart is a likable, plucky little guy, the Charlie Bucket to great-uncle Tony's Willy Wonka…The elements of magical realism that waft through the narrative keep things humming along nicely. This British import, long listed for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, leaves the door ajar for more adventures.” --Booklist
“Small Stuart embarks on an awfully big adventure in this quirky puzzle-solving novel….Each more curious than the one before, the far-fetched solutions they require bring the book to a hugely satisfying conclusion.” --The Guardian

 “An adventure that will enthrall smaller people and the adults reading to them in equal measure.” --The Independent

“The action cracks along at a good pace and is a brilliant pre-teen magical mystery story.” --The Bookbag

“This story has time travel, dastardly villains, lots of machinery and some seriously good adventures!” --Fun Kids

About the Author

Lissa Evans's route to children's fiction author is perhaps as roundabout as Stuart's adventures in Beeton. After a brief career as a doctor of medicine and then in stand-up comedy, Lissa became a comedy producer, first in radio and then in television, before turning to writing. She has penned books for adults as well as picture books for children. This is her first middle-grade novel. Lissa lives with her family in North London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 43 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Aug. 23 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was in perfect condition and it's a wonderful book! :)
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful. Just beautiful. April 10 2012
By H. Killough-Walden - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my daughter, along with a few other young adult novels. I left the stack on the coffee table and as I took a moment to rest, I just reached over, touched upon the top book, and opened it. What a wonderful, fateful moment. Twenty minutes later, I realized I was still reading. Everything around me had been forgotten - my work (I work at home), my responsibilities, everything. I kept reading, literally staying up ALL NIGHT (like I have neither the time nor the energy to do), allowing myself to be pulled page by page into a world where every mystery solved was a doorway to two more mysteries. The pictures were painted in such vivid, striking detail, I saw them in perfect clarity; it was like watching a movie and in fact, I could almost hear music playing during some of the more emotional or harrowing scenes in the book. The story telling was poignant in moments of times gone by, the majesty of magic and what it once was, and in the reality of war. And it was hilarious in moments of childhood, faulty and fabulous parenting, and sheer dumb luck. The author has a tremendous sense of humor.
I felt myself as if glued to the main character, Stuart. Everything he saw and did, I saw and did. When he hit his head, I swear my head began to hurt. Just a little.
This book is a gem. It's a story of magic wrapped up in a piece of magic unto itself. It would make a fantastic movie - though there is already one in my head now and I am in no hurry to mess with it.
If you choose to read in order to take your leave of the harsh, loud, chaos of reality, and if you would rather spend your valuable time locked in mystery and magic than in the contemporary problems of modern day in and day out existence, then this is your book. I can't wait to read the sequel.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling Novel from Debut Author for the Middle Grades Aug. 21 2012
By Sue Morris @ Kid Lit Reviews - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
Main Street.

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
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Previewed for my child and fell in love with it. July 2 2012
By Sojournarita - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What an excellent read! I started out to pre-read it for content for my children. I fell in love with it and along with way was giving my children tidbits of what I was reading... They can't wait. They are currently listening to "Children of the Lamp" book series, which they love!! and reading "Another Whole Nother Story" Voracious readers, I sometime struggle with keeping up. (The kids are 7, 7, 9).

I found the characters adorable and charismatic with the drive you hope your children demonstrate. I love the way the parents are described and how if you truly believe then the right person will find the clues. I loved the mystery a little bit of danger, breaking of the rules, but for the right reasons and understanding the politics involved. The Villain, well placed in the town and the understanding of what drives her. It all comes together very well.

I highly suggest this book for your children if they are interested in mystery, magic, puzzles, being strong and trusting themselves type books.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent MG read, short and fun May 26 2012
By theEPICrat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms reminds me of The Phantom Tollbooth or Coraline where a young person manages to find his or her way into some wonderful and magical adventure where anything - especially that of an unexpected nature - can happen. This was a charming yet awfully short read, and I loved watching Stuart try to decipher his uncle's encrypted messages and learn about his family legacy in magic-making. I also enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Horten's quirks, especially Mr. Horten's crossword-inventing self that would thrown in the most random of comments. I did wish that the book had spent more time on expanding on the minor characters, especially the triplets, because they came onto the page with all sorts of interesting things to say, but then left shortly without really getting too embroiled in Stuart's adventure. Overall though, Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms can be a wonderful discovery for a young reader with a big imagination and a love for all things fantastic.