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Ten-year-old Leo lives with his father in the basement of the extraordinary Whippet Hotel in New York City, where his dad works as the hotel’s caretaker. The hotel, designed by eccentric inventor Merganzer Whippet, is filled to the brim with strange and mysterious rooms and gizmos. Merganzer does not encourage too many guests to stay at this spacious yet sparsely populated hotel. The few who are there are wealthy, odd, and seem to be permanent residents.

There are few other children at the hotel, aside from a snotty six-year-old heiress who snubs Leo, and Remi, the new boy who watches the front door and is not allowed to leave his post or go anywhere in the hotel. The basement where Leo lives is shabby and overfilled with gadgets that help to keep the hotel running and alert Leo’s father when something goes wrong. But Leo loves the hotel dearly, for what boy could ask for a more exciting or unusual place to call home? There’s a giant pinball room, a cake room, a ponds-and-caves room with four-foot-long koi, a “Central Park” room that features a thrilling arcade ride, and an entire haunted floor. Even the gaps and spaces between rooms and floors are enticing to Leo, who, in typical 10-year old fashion, has managed to learn his way around the hotel’s secret and forbidden spaces.

In a nod to the real Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, home to the famous “Peabody Ducks,” the fictional Whippet Hotel has ducks living on the hotel rooftop, and riding the duck elevator to march through the lobby to the grounds for their daily walk. Betty, their enigmatic leader, appears to possess some uncanny talents, making her a useful ally in tight spots. Perhaps this is why Merganzer has always insisted that one must always bring a duck along on an adventure.

When Merganzer disappears suddenly, it falls to Leo to learn who or what might be behind this ominous event. Could someone be sabotaging Leo’s beloved hotel-home? After Merganzer has been missing for over 100 days, strange boxes filled with mysterious clues start to arrive in secret for the boy. Each box leads Leo to still more boxes and to secret rooms and places in a thrill-a-minute scavenger hunt through the hotel. It appears that the fate of the hotel and Leo’s own future rest in his hands. Luckily, Remi, who watches the front door (not always assiduously), becomes Leo’s new friend and partner-in-crime. The boys team up to solve the puzzles in the strange boxes, explore the hotel’s secrets, and learn what must be done to save the beloved Whippet Hotel.

Patrick Carman, the author of such bestsellers as Land of Elyon, Atherton, Elliot’s Park, Skeleton Creek, and the fifth installment in the acclaimed 39 Clues series, has created a magical world reminiscent of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Picturesque descriptions of the various rooms and floors recall an arcade game, and make this book fun to visualize. Leo and Remi are good-natured and likable protagonists. The boys act like real children rather than miniature adults, all the while exhibiting great pluck, creativity and independence. While action-packed, the book is also lighthearted and enjoyable.

Carman’s skill in creating engaging characters and imaginative settings imbues FLOORS with whimsical charm, making this a promising new series to watch.

Reviewed by Usha Rao on September 1, 2001

by Patrick Carman

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2011
  • Genres: Mystery
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545255198
  • ISBN-13: 9780545255196