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Kids Fiction 2859
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I have promised myself I will never compare anyone to Roald Dahl. Only Roald Dahl is like Roald Dahl. Only he manages to be so perfectly creepy and so perfectly safe, all at once. Only he seems to manage to call things Snozzwhizzlers and Wangdoodles without sounding twee. Other writers do not every sound like Roald Dahl. They just don't. So I shan't ever invoke his name in a review of another book.

But if I were to compare Roald Dahl to another writer, which I'm not, I might compare him to Patrick Carman, but I won't, so there.

3 BELOW, the new Floors novel by Patrick Carman, is still a pretty darn good book. Set again in the marvelous, magical (sort of, not really) Whippet Hotel, this sequel to Floors starts with a wedding: Remi's mom and Leo's dad. Almost immediately, however, the newlyweds zoom off on a surprise honeymoon, and Leo and Remi are (to their delight) left entirely on their own to solve a major financial crisis.

The story balances delicately on the precipice of complete loopiness: there are tiny monkeys with detachable tails, Betty the Duck, a mad scientist, and some rather fizzy soda. Yet the key word here is balance. The story manages to include Floogers, giant ants, Zooooob, Flooooob, and Zooooob (all edible substances squirted from large hoses) without actually teetering off the edge and vanishing into the abyss of silliness.

That takes talent.

It would be too easy amid all that tom-foolery to lose sight of the characters, and if the kids aren't real, no reader is going to give a fig for what happens to them. Leo and Remi do feel real, and the writer gives them time to deal another momentous event -- the fact that they're now brothers.

And that's what makes it feel Dahl-ish, that somehow Patrick Carman has created an utterly ridiculous, silly, dangerous world -- and put two boys at the center whom you can imagine sitting next to in history class. That makes it seem real again, so much so that you might just be looking for the Whippet Hotel the next time you're wandering around Manhattan. If you do find it, say hi to the ducks for me.
Good Points
Perfectly balanced between real and unreal
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