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4.5 1
Kids Fiction 3378
What's the magic word?
Overall rating
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HOCUS POCUS HOTEL, by Michael Dahl, is two stories in one, kid-friendly mysteries set in the marvelous, mysterious, almost magical Abracadabra Hotel. A quickly read, nicely designed book, it certainly held my interest, even if it only rarely piqued my curiosity.

The action begins when the school tough, Tyler Yu, who works at the hotel, secretly asks Charlie Hitchcock, a boy with a “picture-perfect memory” to help him find a missing hotel resident, Mr. Madagascar. Charlie likes solving mysteries anyway, and is happy to put his observational skills and photographic memory to use, especially since it allows him to explore such a fabulous place. He does in fact solve the mystery of the disappearing magician, as well as a second mystery involving a haunting, missing shower curtains and a ghostly voice.

Despite the marvelous setting and quirky cast of characters, the central trope—the unlikely duo of Ty and Charlie—remains somewhat unlikely. The writer makes an effort to give depth to Ty, pointing out how much smarter he is than he appears to be at school, but it doesn’t ring true. Indeed, the blossoming friendship between Charlie and the mysterious elevator operator actually feels more realistic, and certainly more fraught with possibility.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the book is the hotel itself. Built by a magician called Abracadabra, the hotel houses not just retired practitioners of prestidigitation, but a bowling alley, moving walls and a fully equipped theater. What wonderful secrets it must have! What stories it could tell!

These two stories are a good start, and there is a story arc that suggests at least one – but likely many more stories to come.
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