The Mesmer Menace

Overview

Welcome to the Amazing Automated Inn, home of twelve-year-old inventor Wally Kennewickett, his genius scientist parents, and his dashing dog, Noodles. From the lightning harvester on the roof to the labs full of experiments in the dungeon, the inn is a wonderful place for a curious boy and his loyal dog to live. That is, until President Theodore Roosevelt himself calls the elder Kennewicketts away, leaving Wally and Noodles to face the evil Mesmers, horrible hypnotists bent on controlling the minds of ...

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The Mesmer Menace

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Overview

Welcome to the Amazing Automated Inn, home of twelve-year-old inventor Wally Kennewickett, his genius scientist parents, and his dashing dog, Noodles. From the lightning harvester on the roof to the labs full of experiments in the dungeon, the inn is a wonderful place for a curious boy and his loyal dog to live. That is, until President Theodore Roosevelt himself calls the elder Kennewicketts away, leaving Wally and Noodles to face the evil Mesmers, horrible hypnotists bent on controlling the minds of powerful people. It seems the inn is their first stop on the way to world domination . . . and only an ingenious boy, a staff of automatons, and a brave dachshund stand in their way!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/14/2013
Noodles, a dry-humored dachshund, narrates this auspicious first book in the Gadgets and Gears series, set in 1902. Wally Kennewickett, the dog's young master and a "scientist in training," lives with his parents, world-famous inventors whose contraptions include a staff of automatons, windup dust bunnies to clean their hilltop inn, and a popcorn popper powered by lightning. When President Theodore Roosevelt recruits the elder Kennewicketts to help thwart the Mesmers, an organization of mind-controlling magicians intent on taking over the world, Wally is left to demonstrate the popcorn popper to a contingent of visiting vendors. As the villains infiltrate the gathering, Hamilton (the Goblin Wars trilogy) makes the comedic most of her premise, including a pigeon capable of hypnosis and a winged vest created by Wally that enables Noodles to fly. Wearing that invention, the acrophobic dog heroically foils the villains' ploy—for now. Noodles's antics and droll, mannered narration (on Roosevelt: "Everyone knew he had the courage of a corsair") make him the indisputable star of this show. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 9–12. Author's agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
A Winter 2013-14 Kids' Indie Next List pick

"Fast paced and funny, with plenty of alliteration and word definitions provided by Noodles, it carries hints of both Lemony Snicket's wordplay and the absurdity of M. T. Anderson's Pals in Peril series. . . . Young, precocious readers and older readers looking for a shorter read will enjoy this first title in the Gadgets and Gears series."  —Booklist

"[An] auspicious first book. . . .Hamilton makes the comedic most of her premise. . . . Noodles's antics and droll, mannered narration make him the indisputable star of this show."  —Publishers Weekly

"Steampunk with training wheels for the chapter book set. . . . Sly humor . . . nifty, gear-laden illustrations . . . [an] imaginative, engaging premise."  —Kirkus Reviews

From the Publisher
A Winter 2013–14 Kids' Indie Next List pick

"Fast paced and funny, with plenty of alliteration and word definitions provided by Noodles, it carries hints of both Lemony Snicket’s wordplay and the absurdity of M. T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series. . . . Young, precocious readers and older readers looking for a shorter read will enjoy this first title in the Gadgets and Gears series." —Booklist

"[An] auspicious first book. . . . Hamilton makes the comedic most of her premise. . . . Noodles's antics and droll, mannered narration make him the indisputable star of this show."  –Publishers Weekly

 "Steampunk with training wheels for the chapter book set. . . . Sly humor . . . nifty, gear-laden illustrations . . . [an] imaginative, engaging premise." —Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
The first book in Hamilton’s “Gadgets and Gears” series is an energetic, madcap mix of adventure and history with steampunk overtones. President Theodore Roosevelt himself drafts the Kennewickett family to help the nation thwart the evil machinations of the sinister group known as the Mesmers. And no wonder! The family inn is a marvelous place filled with automatons, mechanized dust bunnies, dungeons buzzing with experiments, and a rooftop lightning harvester. The fringe science of Nikola Tesla hums in these and in the other gadgets dreamed up by “scientist in training” Wally Kennewickett’s famous inventor parents. But it is Wally’s pet dachshund, Noodles, who is far and away the quirkiest, funniest character in the mix. Droll and self-deprecating (and an incidental reader to boot) Noodles lightens the mix with his witty commentary, and grows incrementally as well. He is drawn into the fray as the villainous forces gather, until the tension’s enough to make any self-respecting canine worry about serious tail failure. In the end, saving the day is left to the little dog with some help from Wally—a nice delivery on the promise of their relationship throughout the book. Hamilton’s confident writing informs the voice with a period sensibility without dampening the humor. Read in e-galley format via NetGalley, with final art not yet in place. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami; Ages 9 to 12.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
Steampunk with training wheels for the chapter-book set. Set in 1902, this series opener features a dachshund narrator, Noodles, with a human companion, young Wally Kennewickett. Their home is the Automated Inn in Gasket Gully run by Wally's parents, eccentric geniuses, and staffed by their inventions. In the first chapter, President Theodore Roosevelt turns up in hobo disguise seeking help to foil a plot by evil magicians to achieve world domination via hypnotism. After this spirited opening, blending familiar steampunk tropes (Nikola Tesla, the Ottoman Empire) with quirky original elements (demented pigeon fanciers, a genial conspiracy theorist), the plot stalls. Its villain is sidelined and unmet, while characters interact and Noodles fills in back story. The picture brightens whenever the inn's mechanical staff is on hand. Gizmo supervises the housekeeping Dust Bunnies and shares cooking duties with Knives, whose many attachments "allow him to slice, dice, chop and puree at incredible speeds." These appealing automated characters need more to do. Noodles, whose role as omniscient narrator stunts his character development, is similarly underutilized. (Let's face it--dachshunds are wasted as straight men.) A surfeit of alliteration and arch dialogue amplifies missteps, but flashes of originality and sly humor, bolstered by nifty, gear-laden illustrations, keep the enterprise afloat. Awkward plotting and clichéd language hobble but don't quite defeat the imaginative, engaging premise. (Steampunk. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547905686
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/19/2013
  • Series: Gadgets and Gears Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 780,484
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many novels, including the middle grade Gadgets and Gears series and the critically acclaimed YA trilogy The Goblin Wars. She splits her time between her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her farm in Kentucky. For more about Kersten, please visit www.kerstenhamilton.com.

James Hamilton is an artist and designer who lives in San Mateo, California.

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Read an Excerpt

1
Danger. I should have smelled it. Mayhem, most feathered and fowl, was coming.
   I should have smelled it. But I didn’t.
   I smelled bacon and sausage, eggs and waffles, toast and tea—the scents we awoke to every morning at the Kennewicketts’ Amazing Automated Inn.
   My name is Noodles. I’m a dachshund.
   On Saturday, October 19, 1902, the day the Great Mesmer War began, I was sitting on Wally Kennewickett’s lap in the lobby as he perused the pages of an old Scientific American. Wally was reading an article about Percy Pilcher’s last flight in his man-size glider the Hawk.
   “Pilcher had built a powered plane, Noodles,” Wally said, “but a mechanical malfunction forced him to fly the Hawk that fateful morning instead.”
   You learn a lot of interesting phrases living with the Kennewicketts. Phrases like mechanical malfunction, retractable rail cannon, and flee for your life were used quite frequently around the Inn.
   “I wish they’d published Pilcher’s blueprints for the powered plane!” Wally went on.
   I licked his ear.
   Manned, powered, and controlled flight in a contraption that was heavier than air was an achievement that had thus far eluded the world’s most courageous adventurers and intelligent engineers. It was Wally Kennewickett’s dream to be the first to achieve it. I did not approve. Flight was far too dangerous.
   Percy Pilcher’s perilous pursuit had ended when the Hawk’s tail failed and Percy plunged to his death.Wally took his journal from his pocket. He noted, Tail failure may cause tragedy.
   I was pondering the profundity of this observation when destiny knocked on the door. Wally tucked his journal back in his pocket, set me on the couch, and stood up to answer it.
   I barked.
   “Jump, boy!” Wally said. “You can do it!”
   My wagger went wild. It always does when Wally says “You can do it.” But wagging wouldn’t get me to the floor. There are things that nature never intended a dachshund to do. Flinging oneself off a couch is certainly on the list. I raced from one armrest to the other, barking madly until Wally came back and lifted me down. Wally Kennewickett is the kind of boy who comes through when you need him.
   Once all four paws were safely on the polished marble floor, I raced ahead of him to the door, expecting to find a Very Important Person on the steps. Scientists, businessmen, and engineers come to the Inn from all over the world, eager to ask for advice from Wally’s parents, Oliver and Calypso Kennewickett.
   Oliver and Calypso are inventors extraordinaire.
   “Extraordinaire” means that they’re amazing. Oliver and Calypso invented everything in the Inn, from the Dust Bunnies to the Gyrating Generator and the Amazing Automatons. An “automaton” is a self-operating machine. The Kennewicketts are currently perfecting several new designs.
   When Wally opened the door that morning, we didn’t find a scientist, leader of industry, or engineer on the step, however. We found a hobo. The collar of his ragged coat was turned up, and the brim of his dusty hat was pulled down. I could just make out a bulb of a nose above a bushy mustache, and perhaps the flash of spectacles.
   “Walter Kennewickett,” the hobo said, “I must see your parents at once. It’s a matter of utmost importance!”
   It wasn’t surprising that a hobo would know Wally’s name. The Kennewicketts were always kind to hobos.
   “Yes, sir,” Wally said politely. “Would you wait in the lobby while I find them?”
   “Of course.” The hobo looked at me. “Is this fine fellow your dog?”
   “My best friend,” Wally corrected. “His name is Noodles. I’ll return shortly, sir.”
   I wanted to follow Wally, but felt it might be best if I waited with our guest. The Automated Inn is conveniently located near a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, so I had observed many hobos. Some of them were nice, ordinary people. Others put things in their pockets when no one was watching. If our visitor was that sort of hobo, he would soon find out that dachshunds are very good at watching.
   This hobo didn’t try to slip anything in his pockets. He patted my head, then walked to the fireplace to ponder the portrait of a pigeon that hung above the mantel. Half of the Kennewickett clan have a particular passion for the birds. Wally’s almost-grown-up cousin Melvin Kennewickett has a shelf full of pigeon racing trophies. Melvin’s twin sister, Prissy, has half a shelf of trophies. They’d inherited this peculiar pastime from their father, Wentworth Kennewickett, who, being Oliver’s elder brother, technically owned the Inn. But it hadn’t been an inn when he’d left it in Oliver’s care, and it certainly had not been automated.
   It had been a frightening folly built atop a granite mountain by Oliver andWentworth’s industrialist grandfather, the wicked Mars Kennewickett. Kennewicketts tend to turn out generally good or abominably evil. Oliver keeps a journal of his own, full of notes, observations, and theories about this family phenomenon.
   Wally worries about it. Sometimes I find him in front of the full-length mirror on Calypso’s side of the lab, staring into his own green eyes. I know what he is thinking. He is pondering the conundrum of his kin: Which sort of Kennewickett am I going to be?
   A “conundrum” is a difficult problem or question. The kind Kennewicketts love best.
   Wally’s father is the generally good sort of Kennewickett. At least, he has been since he married Wally’s mother. It was Calypso who had insisted that the cannons be removed from the folly’s turret, and the chains taken out of the dungeons Mars had dug into the solid stone of the mountain.
   I felt this had been a step in the right direction. Letting Melvin, Prissy, and their pigeons stay, however, was a step in the wrong direction, even if their father did technically own the Inn.
   The pigeons’ presence gave Wally an excuse to spend too much time locked away with his gadgets and gears. Wally is allergic to feathers.
   The hobo rubbed his chin, and I realized my mind had wandered far from the issue at hand. Was this the kind of hobo who would slip things into his pocket? I had just decided that he was the ordinary, honest sort when I noticed his boots. They were shiny beneath a thin film of dust—too shiny. The cuffs of his trousers weren’t torn, either. He’s wearing a disguise, I thought.
   “Are you a pigeon fancier, sir?” asked Oliver Kennewickett, stepping into the room. Wally and Calypso were right behind him. Walter Kennewickett does not look like either of his parents. Oliver is tall and dark, with flashing black eyes; Calypso is fair and elegant in every way. Wally is small for his age, and his hair is the color of new copper wire.
   “A pigeon fancier?” the hobo said, turning around. “Not in the least.”
   I had to wag. Pigeons engage in activities such as flying, eating bugs, and perching on high places. You’d never catch a dachshund doing such senseless things.
   “How can we help you?” asked Calypso Kennewickett kindly. “Breakfast, perhaps? A hot bath?”
   “We’ve no time for that,” the hobo said. He took off his coat and hat.
   Wally gasped. “Theodore Roosevelt!”
   “Mr. President!” Oliver Kennewickett exclaimed. “What an unexpected honor!”

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