Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2011 Fiction
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Patrick Carman
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0545255196
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Nothing has gone quite right at the Whippet Hotel since its wacky creator, Merganzer D. Whippet, left, with no explanation, one hundred days ago. The Whippet Hotel has thirteen floors, each wackier than the next, with elaborate individualized rooms containing pinball machines and flying holographic animals and robots. All this machinery takes a lot of upkeep; and all of it seems to be falling apart at once. Clarence and Leo, the father-and-son maintenance team, have never seen anything like it. To make matters worse, Ms. Sparks, the Whippet's cranky manager, is itching to fire as many of the hotel staff as she can during Merganzer Whippet's absence. And just when Leo should be working at full tilt to repair all of the hotel's mechanical problems, he starts to find puzzle boxes leading him on strange adventures through the hotel's many hidden secrets. He won't be able to get everything done without the help of Remi, the new door guard; and even then, he might not be able to foil the plot to ruin the Whippet Hotel.

Floors is a fantastic (pun intended) homage to the legendary Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The semi-orphaned boy characters are slightly more mischievous and consequently more endearing than the angelic Charlie, and the ingenious inventions are plentiful, intricate, and frequently brilliant (my personal favorite is the chatty robot Blop, who becomes psychologically distressed when he cannot deliver ten thousand words a day in conversation). Merganzer D. Whippet, the secretive Wonka-like inventor, is a softer and gentler eccentric than Wonka is, and he is here provided with a painful childhood story of his own that works surprisingly well. The sinister takeover plot is the novel's main weak spot, so that the final resolution and revelation is not quite convincing. Furthermore, the friendships between Leo and Remi, and between Merganzer and his childhood friend, are somewhat imbalanced, following the pattern of hero and sidekick rather than partnership of equals. Nevertheless, most readers will overlook these problems willingly, as they are swept through their wild tour of the Whippet Hotel.

Naomi Lesley   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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