Hocus Pocus Hotel by Michael Dahl is the first book in a promising new series aimed at children. Charlie Hitchcock (or “Hitch”) is the class genius, known for his photographic memory. Tyler Yu (“Ty”) is the class bully, known for beating up kids after slipping them a note saying to meet him after school. Charlie gets one of the infamous notes and leaves school to a chorus of kids telling him goodbye. He meets Ty in a dark alley near some dumpsters and fears that Ty will soon be dumping him in one. Ty has other plans, though, and invites Charlie into the Abracadabra Hotel, known to many as the “Hocus Pocus Hotel”. This hotel was built by a magician for magicians and is full of secrets.
Tyler and Charlie team up to solve the mystery of a magician who has disappeared. They learn more about the hotel, its residents, and some of the tricks magicians use to perform their illusions as they work together to try to find the missing magician. Along the way they meet Brack, the elevator operator, Tyler’s mom and dad, and a host of performers and employees. Of course, they can’t acknowledge each other back in school or Charlie will be pounded for real.
Unexpectedly, this first volume contains not just one mystery, but two (or maybe more?). I would have appreciated a break in the book to indicate that a new story was started, but that wasn’t a huge problem other than it would have provided a convenient stopping place while reading with my child. Tyler and Charlie team up again to solve the mystery of a ghost in the hotel. Strange noises, objects taken from locked rooms, and a voice calling out “Mister Ken”. Who is Ken? Is the hotel actually haunted? We get to learn some more about illusions as the duo work towards solving the next mystery.
As an adult, I found this an entertaining read with some great illustrations. I would have loved this sort of book when I was in elementary school. The proof that a child will like this comes from my kid who couldn’t wait to keep going and find out how the mysteries were solved and how the tricks were done. We had to keep reading until the very end because the story was great to hold the imagination and attention. We’re now eagerly looking forward to book #2 which is due out in 2013.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book. There was no expectation of anything on my part for receiving the book. I was not influenced by the publisher or author in any way.