Carman (the Skeleton Creek series) delivers a madcap mystery reminiscent of Roald Dahl and Ellen Raskin, complete with bizarre inventions, a mystery involving a missing billionaire and his fortune, and even a crazy elevator or two. At New York City's Whippet Hotel, guests stay in rooms like the Pinball Machine—featuring giant flippers, bumpers, and pinballs—and the Central Park Room, an exact reproduction of the famed park. When Leo Fillmore, the 10-year-old son of the hotel's maintenance man and himself an assistant maintenance crew member, discovers a mysterious purple box while walking the hotel's ducks, he embarks on a mystery that has him sneaking into hidden rooms, evading a pesky six-year-old and other guests, and riding a train through a tunnel of fire. With the help of his friend Remi and a tiny, talkative robot named Blop, Leo discovers more boxes and more mysteries while trying to avoid running afoul of the hotel's shrewish manager, Ms. Sparks. Sparks, a one-note nemesis, is one of the book's rare sour notes, but Carman delivers so much fun that readers aren't likely to notice. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for the Skeleton Creek series:
“There are so many good things to say about this book
.It will inspire other juvenile literature authors to incorporate technology into their offerings. It will make possible the telling of more interesting and complex tales.” www.The-Trades.com
“All the way to the last chilling pages, readers will be enthralled and totally surprised by the unexpected answers. Ghost in the Machine continues with tightrope tension interwoven with pop culture and literary references. Everybody here seems to be a suspect, and no one can be trusted. Hang on to your flashlights and be ready for some really great twists!” www.teenreads.com
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
The many floors of New York City's Whippet Hotel, creation of eccentric billionaire Merganzer D. Whippet, are filled with quirky rooms (the Pinball Machine, the Cake Room, the Robot Room), wacky inventions (the Double Helix elevator), and most of all, Merganzer's beloved ducks. But now Merganzer D. Whippet has mysteriously disappeared, and ten-year-old Leo Filmore has his hands full with helping his dad, the hotel's tireless maintenance man, deal with a series of disasters that suggest that somebody somehow is trying to sabotage the legendary hotel. Then Leo himself is sent on a bizarre quest to find four hidden boxes over the course of four days, each one containing cryptic rhyming instructions for what he must do to save the hotel from impending destruction. Meanwhile, the hotel is being surreptitiously surveyed by lurking Bernard Frescobaldi, who pores over Merganzer Whippet's private papers for clues to help him execute what seems to be a most nefarious scheme. Young Leo is a likeable hero, and it's a treat to spend time in the fascinating hallways of the Whippet Hotel. But few books have ever been so shamelessly manipulative of the reader in a way that amounts to outright deception. When readers discover why exactly Leo has been sent on his strange treasure hunt, and what exactly shadowy Bernard Frescobaldi is up to, they are likely to feel enraged by a massive authorial cheat rather than satisfied by Leo's ultimate success in his mission. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Designed and built by Merganzer D. Whippet, duck-obsessed billionaire inventor, and filled with secret rooms and wacky inventions (some dangerous), the Whippet Hotel in New York is a place unlike any other. Only the most elite and eccentric dare stay there. It is the only home that Leo, the 10-year-old son of the maintenance man, has ever known. Lately, something is amiss. Merganzer has disappeared without a trace, and the hotel is falling apart. Is someone trying to sabotage it, or is there some other reason that everything seems to be breaking down at once? Following a series of mysterious clues left in boxes he comes upon, leading him to even more mysterious hidden rooms, Leo uncovers the truth, and he learns he is much more important to the hotel's future than he could have imagined. This story will tug at the imagination of any readers with a healthy appetite for adventure. Even reluctant readers will delight in Leo's escapades.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI
Here is the Whippet Hotel, a very strange place: Each of its floors has its own eccentric personality, especially the hidden ones.
Carman has not only created a beguiling building but populated it with a sympathetic company of oddfellows, plus a few nefarious creatures (except the ducks, because, as readers are told, " 'Always bring a duck.' Words to live by." Readers will come to feel totally invested in the hotel, just as they will come to love Leo, the maintenance man's 10-year-old son, in whose hands the fate of the rickety old joint rests when four strange boxes arrive. Cryptic utterances—"A flying goat will be of use"—are fun because there's always at least a sideways understanding of what it might mean, and there are clues that the reader can follow like breadcrumbs to the last, cheering pages. But it is the atmosphere that takes over, whether it is as heart-gladdening as when "the coffeepot filled the basement with the rich smell of morning," or as curious as one of those ducks, whose "breath smelled like daffodils." ("You've been eating the flowers on the grounds again, haven't you?" Leo asked.)
The author is a fine storyteller; he rides the mystery right up to the edge invests his characters with quirks that aren't merely cute but essential to the person's identity. (Magical adventure. 9-12)