Life for the Wilsons certainly has its ups and downs because the family has taken up short-term residence in a hotel elevator. The elevator "room" is the only way the family can salvage their vacation when their hotel accommodations fall through. The elevator named--what else--Otis, seems to have the capacity of one of those circus clown cars. How else could the Wilsons greet hotel guests, dine in style, play parlor games, and even host a lavish party in their ultra-cozy moveable home-away-from-home? Such close quarters would seem to limit to the number of plotlines that author Evans could explore, but the Wilsons seem to make the acquaintance of at least half of San Francisco in their mini-suite, including a lovelorn bellhop and a British rock group called "What." When a tiny heiress, is kidnapped, the Wilsons figure out that she is being held in the hotel and manage to foil the crime. Evans gets much more mileage than you can imagine out of the claustrophobic premise of a family of four living in a lift. Middle readers, especially, will find this book to be an amusing confection loaded with puns related to vertical travel. 2000, Delacorte Press, Ages 8 to 12, $14.95. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
An endearingly eccentric family settles into the elevator and hearts of the patrons and employees at the San Francisco Hotel in this over-the-top tale from Evans. No room at the inn is no problem for the intrepid Wilsons; Mr. and Mrs. and their twin ten-year-olds, Winslow and Whitney, simply set up camp in the hotel's elevator. From their mobile abode, they cheerfully offer advice and hospitality to everyone who "visits" their room. The gregarious Wilsons are true humanitarians, helping out their fellow travelers; providing insights into the opposite sex for a lovelorn teenager; and offering companionship for a lonely salesman. They are delightfully insouciant about their unusual accommodations, and Evans's campy humor will have readers groaning with glee. When questioned about life in an elevator, the twins reply, "It had its ups. . . . And downs." Evans works out the intricacies of life on board an elevator with aplomb, neatly making the implausible seem possible. Throughout their adventures, the Wilsons maintain their affability. Even the ungrateful attitude of the kidnapped heiress they rescue fails to quell the good nature or good will of the irrepressible Wilsons. Brief chapters loaded with wry humor keep readers' interest high and are a great draw for reluctant ones. A wacky, warm-hearted tale. (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
"Evans’s campy humor will have readers groaning with glee. . . . Brief chapters loaded with wry humor keep readers’ interest high and are a great draw for reluctant ones."—Kirkus Reviews
"Evans’ lighthearted story is just the sort of realistic fantasy that will appeal to beginning readers. . . . A funny book."—Booklist
Read an Excerpt
The doors slid open. The four Wilsons stepped into the little room. They dropped their suitcases and backpacks on the floor.
"Splendid! A gem of a place," said Walter Wilson. "The kind woman at the front desk said the hotel is full, but here's this first-rate room. And it appears to be vacant." He pulled out his suspenders with his thumbs and snapped them on his broad chest. "Only the best for this family. Nothing less will do."
Winona Wilson, Walter's wife, turned a complete circle. "A full-length mirror, a telephone, wall-to-wall carpeting. And listen." Soft marimba music floated down from the ceiling. "How lovely!"
"And look at all those buttons!" said Winslow Wilson, age ten. He pressed one button marked Close, and the doors slid shut. "Fantabulous!"
The little room vibrated slightly. A high-pitched hum came from overhead. "We're moving," said Winslow's twin sister, Whitney. "We're gliding upward. I wonder where we're going."
Walter crossed his fingers over his sizable belly. "A mobile room with all these extras," he said. "I say we take this fine room for our vacation. I say we move right in."
"Hear! Hear!" said the others.
The doors slid open. In the hallway stood an elderly couple holding suitcases. They remained still and mute while the four Wilsons waved to them.
"Greetings, fellow travelers," Walter called out.
"I'm so sorry," said Winona. "We just decided to take this room."
"But I think the room next door is vacant," said Winslow.
"It was on the first floor, but it might have moved by now," said Whitney.
The doors shut and the room started to drop. It opened again in the hotel's vast marble lobby. In the doorway stood a teenage boy wearing a wrinkled red jacket and a white shirt buttoned too tightly around his neck. Behind him stood two trunks.
"Splendid, young man," said Walter. "I wondered where you went. Wheel those trunks right in here. We'll take this room for three nights if it's available."
The teenager pushed the trunks forward. His black bow tie bobbed up and down on his Adam's apple as he spoke. "Sir? You want this room, sir? I don't understand, sir."
"The room needs a few items—bed linen and towels and whatnot," said Winona. "But it's small and cozy, just the way we like it. We're a close-knit family."
"This room's about the size of the van we drove to Alaska last summer," said Winslow. "Two thousand miles . . . one month together."
Whitney leaned against a trunk. "And last Christmas we stayed in a small fishing hut on the ice in Minnesota," she said. "I just hope Winslow keeps his socks clean this time."
The teenager raked his fingers through his hair. "Well, I'm only a bellhop. I don't make the rules around here."
"But tell us your name, young man," Walter said.
"Well, Gavin," said Walter, "you've given us excellent service. Stop in anytime. Guests are always welcome in our home."
Gavin shrugged. "Whatever," he said. "I've seen stranger things in this hotel, that's for sure."
"One more thing," Winona called as the bellhop started to leave. "Could you tell us the number of our mobile room?"
The teenager shrugged again. "I'm not sure, ma'am."
Winslow pointed to the button panel next to the doors. "Look at that tag," he said.
"Our room doesn't have a number," said Whitney "It has a name."
"'Otis!'" the four Wilsons read together.
The doors slid shut, and the little room started moving again.
From the Trade Paperback edition.