Monday, September 26, 2011

What Have I Gotten Myself Into Now? Exploring the Weirdest Hotel in the World with Patrick Carman, at Greenfield Public Library, 9/27, 4 pm.

Patrick Carman is not just a very talented writer; you can see ideas shooting out of him like electric bolts. He has worked in advertising, game design, and technology.  He's got so many different books from so many different series that Pam and I had to come up with new and unique ways to fit them all into our purchase form that we give to parents when we host school events.

And I'm happy to say that we're hosting Carman at a public event too; he's appearing at the Greenfield Public Library tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27, at 5310 West Layton Avenue.  Like all our library events, it's free. We'll  have lots of Mr. Carman's books for sale*, but the ones we are focusing on our 3:15 Season One: Things that Go Bump in the Night, a book of horror stories that were originally available as an phone app (did I mention those idea bolts?) and Floors, the first book in a series about the craziest hotel in the world.

Since I am of a delicate disposition, I was more attracted to Floors, which is what I believe to be the first volume of a new series for middle graders.  The hotel is the Whippet, and it's in New York City, though I'm not entirely sure where.  It's owned by Merganzer Whippet, who built this hotel and filled it with crazy rooms like the Cake Room, The Pinball Room, and the Flying Farm Room. 

Only one problem.  Merganzer has disappeared, and the hotel is now being run by the manager, Mrs. Sparks, and she is very mean.  She'll be the death of Clarence Fillmore, the maintenance man, and his son Leo.  And goodness, but the hotel seems to be falling apart--the koi ponds are leaking and the cakes in the Cake Room are melting, and well, the robots in The Robot Room are bothering Theodore Bump so he can't get his writing done--he uses nine different pen names, don't you know? The place is falling apart, which might be the doing of the mysterious Bernard Frescobaldi and his assistant, Milton. Yeeks.

But then Leo comes into a strange note that leads him on a series of quests to collect more information about what's happening to the hotel, solving riddles, finding boxes, and who knows what else, all rather fun and a little bit dangerous.  Leo befriends the new bellboy, Remi, who's filling in for the summer--his mom is a maid at the Whippet, so they can travel in from Staten Island together.

It's all quite fun, a new variation on any number of books where kids have to unlock a series of riddles. And there's the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory iconography, where earnest working-class boy connects to wacky industrialist.  But oddly enough, the book that most came to my mind as a comparison was Steven Millhauser's Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, that novel from the 1980s that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.  It's also the story of an American fortune sunk into a crazy hotel in New York.  Though I read that book more than ten years ago (oops--I originally wrote 20, my apologies), it immediately came to mind. 

So I now pronounce Floors to be Martin Dressler for kids.  Well, at least the first volume; perhaps volume two will remind me more of The Remains of the Day.

*Here are some of the series Mr. Carman is known for:
1. Skeleton Creek
2. Trackers
3. Land of Elyon
4. Atherton.

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