I will admit it - every time I go to the bookstore, I head into the children's section to see what series books they have. I count the number of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews on the shelves (and usually end up re-organizing them into numerical order by series). Then, I take a look to see if there are any new offerings to series that I enjoy, such as Lizzie Brown, Agatha, Penelope Tredwell, and others. Finally, I comb through the new releases to see if anything jumps out and catches my eye.
A couple of months ago, I was at Barnes and Noble with my friend, Kevin, and as we were checking out the new releases, I noticed this book. Hocus Pocus Hotel. Yes, the title sounds a bit cheesy, but after reading the description on the back, I decided to flip through it.
Flipping through the pages, I was surprised to see a number of color illustrations throughout. So, figuring I'd take a chance, I picked it up.
I just got around to reading it, and while the promise of these two characters solving mysteries "beyond my wildest imagination" was not exactly fulfilled, it was a fun read. A short read - a VERY short read, but certainly a fun one.
While the book was 204 pages, there are 26 full page illustrations, a dozen or so half-page illustrations, and 11 blank pages (where the chapter ends on the left page, leaving the right page blank). Plus, each of the 22 chapters begins with a red curtain illustration page on the left, meaning that out of the 204 pages, 59 of those pages are not actual typed story. Further, the margins are exceptionally wide, the chapter titles are so large that the actual type begins 3/4 of the way down the page, and all type is double-spaced. Ultimately, this provides for much less actual story than you would think, considering the page count.
There is no grade level given for the intended reading audience, but judging it on the style of writing and words used, I'd have to say perhaps a 3rd grade reading level (even though the book is placed on the shelves with the pre-teen books). Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable little read, and I did like the fact that every "magical" trick used in the book is given a full, detailed explanation of how it was done. I also enjoyed the two characters, who are as far opposites as possible, coming together and acknowledging (very nearly respecting) the fact that the other may not be quite as bad as they thought.
This first book actually hosts two mysteries - one involving a magician living at the hotel who disappears when he seemingly jumps from a 14-story window, and the other involving a "ghost" who haunts the halls of the ninth floor. With Charlie's photographic memory and Tyler's own quick thinking, the two manage to figure out the secret behind these tricks and uncover what really happened to the famous Abracadabra.
There is a website for the book series, www.hocuspocushotel.com, that provides more information about the books, the characters, and the author.
This is a series I would certainly recommend to anyone who enjoys a quick-read mystery for fun.
RATING: 7 magical tricks out of 10 for keeping children's books good, clean, and fun.