Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel
I have to start my review of Chris Grabenstein's hilarious, action-packed WELCOME TO WONDERLAND #1 with a bit of a confession: while I spent most of my elementary school years looking forward to summer vacations, it was never the beach or amusement parks that had me excited. It was always, without a doubt, the hotels. If you're anything like me, HOME SWEET MOTEL is the read you've been waiting for.
P.T. Wilkie has lived in his grandfather's Wonderland motel for his whole life. Situated just outside of Orlando, the Wonderland opened only a year before the iconic Walt Disney opened his own extravagant resort --- quickly stealing crowds from P.T.'s grandfather's wild and wacky attractions and leaving the Wonderland in a constant state of debt. Still, P.T. and his family are happy, for the most part, and P.T. definitely wouldn't change a thing about his life. After all, what's better than free sodas, housekeeping and a pool?
"Grabenstein presents readers with a fun, imaginative character....There is much to love in Grabenstein’s new series, but the Wonderland itself is where his talents really shine."
At the start of HOME SWEET MOTEL, we find P.T. spinning a highly unbelievable tale involving one angry crocodile and a very heroic P.T. for his classmates. It is immediately clear that P.T. is something of a fibber, but his heart is always in the right place. He simply likes to add a little "razzle dazzle" to every moment --- and why not, when he's living in a state known for its vacations and "anything can happen" mantra? Of course, no one can stay on vacation forever.
When a surprise visit from the bank results in P.T.'s family needing to raise $100,000 in only one month, P.T. knows it is up to him to save the Wonderland motel. He starts, of course, with his grandfather's giant statues, creating fun games that encourage guests to get involved and have some excitement --- for a price, of course. When P.T. joins forces with Gloria, a young enterprising guest with a talent for numbers, the money starts pouring in and it seems that the Wonderland may be able to stay afloat after all.
Of course, $100,000 is no small cost and when the motel’s neighbors begin to complain about some of P.T.’s moneymaking schemes, his mother puts her foot down and asks him to quietly give up. But when two highly suspicious guests arrive with curious questions about a past guest, P.T. knows there is a mystery to be solved. With two burly criminals on his and Gloria’s trail and a case of expensive diamonds to be found, P.T. will have to rely on more than his creative storytelling to save his family’s motel.
Chris Grabenstein is easily one of the funniest authors I have ever had the pleasure of reading. In his new book, Grabenstein presents readers with a fun, imaginative character with relatable dreams and the perfect intelligent foil in Gloria, a precocious character who older readers will love. There is much to love in Grabenstein’s new series, but the Wonderland itself is where his talents really shine. Motels present such scope for the imagination and P.T.’s grandfather’s seemingly endless collection of attractions and knick-knacks provide Grabenstein with a wealth of situations to which he can apply his pitch-perfect sense of humor.
Although WELCOME TO WONDERLAND #1 does start a bit slowly --- perhaps because it is the first book in the series --- readers will be instantly hooked by P.T.’s determination and wacky ideas. I look forward to seeing what happens in the Wonderland motel next!
Reviewed by Audrey Slater on October 25, 2016