Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Patrick Carman
Scholastic Press, 2011   ISBN: 978-0545255196

Leo Fillmore loves in the basement of the Whippet Hotel where his father works as the hotel maintenance man. Leo helps his father fix duck ponds, air conditioners, pipes, and other essential things, so he knows his way around the hotel very well. The only person who knows the hotel better than Leo and his father is Mr. Whippet, who designed and built the hotel. One hundred days ago Mr. Whippet disappeared and no one has seen or heard from him since. The hotel is being run by Ms. Sparks, the hotel manager, and none of the hotel employees like the bossy and nosy woman.

   One hundred days after Mr. Whippet’s disappearance Leo and his father wake up to find out that a number of things in the hotel are broken and need to be fixed. In addition, the ducks are on the ledge and Leo has to get up to the roof immediately to stop them from flying down to the ground and biting the guests in the legs (the ducks do this when they need a long walk and a meal.) Leo rushes up to the roof, leads the ducks into the duck elevator, and then out of the building and into the large hotel grounds for a walk.

   After the walk is complete, Leo leads the ducks back into the elevator and he finds out that there is a purple box in the elevator with the words “For Leo” written on the lid. Later, when he is supposed to be fixing the AC for floor six, Leo opens the box and finds a miniature maze, a letter, and some instructions written inside the lid. The letter is from Mr. Whippet’s lawyer and in it the lawyer explains that Leo has to find four boxes in two days. He can ask for help and he should always take a duck with him. The lawyer impresses on Leo that he cannot afford to fail because if he does “the Whippet Hotel and all it stands for will come to an end.” Since Leo knows the hotel so well, he understands the cryptic instructions that are written inside the lid of the box. He needs to get into Captain Rickenbacker’s room on the third floor, the room that is full of pin ball machines. Once he is in there he needs to use the maze in the box to guide him through a real maze that Mr. Whippet created in one of the hidden rooms in the hotel. As he makes his way through the maze, Leo is given additional directions that are written on frosted glass. This is unnerving to be sure, because Leo has no idea who is leaving the messages, but Leo presses on.

   When Leo gets through the maze, which is no mean feat, he finds the second of the boxes, a blue one this time. With the help of Remi, the new hotel bellboy, Leo sets about collecting all the boxes. His job is made difficult because someone is sabotaging the hotel and Leo is needed to do the repairs, and because Ms. Sparks is always on the prowl, looking for an excuse to write up or fire Leo.

   In this very unusual books readers will encounter a hotel unlike any other, one that has rooms that are dedicated to trains, ghosts, desserts, games, and who knows what else. Readers will also meet a boy who loves his home so much that he will do everything he can to save it.

   With a weirdly wonderful story and colorful characters Patrick Carman gives readers a memorable reading experience.