✰✰✰✰½ When geeky middle school student, Charlie "Hitch" Hitchcock receives a note from Tyler "Ty" Yu, the school bully, he knows that he must face the music or be humiliated by his peers. Charlie goes to the address written on the dreaded note and finds himself face-to-face with Ty. But looks aren't always what they seem. You see, Ty lives in the mysterious Abracadabra Hotel, a kind of retirement home for magicians. It just so happens that one of the retired magicians, Mr. Madagascar, is missing. He simply disappeared into thin air one day. Poof! Now Ty desperately needs Charlie's help to find the AWOL magician. As the hotel manager's son, it's Ty's job to collect the rent money. If he doesn't collect the rent, he won't get paid. And if he doesn't get paid, he can't purchase the Tezuki Slamhammer 750, Edition 6, in cherry-pop lightening red.
But that's not all. The Abracadabra Hotel was been built by a famous magician many years ago. While there are surprises around every corner, things have been a bit more odd than usual around the old hotel. It seems there are strange disappearances, blackouts, and maybe even a ghost. Following a trail of missing objects, the bully and the geek secretly team up to find the missing magician and discover who or what has been stealing from the hotel. With the help of the mysterious elderly elevator operator, Brack, who has a knack for appearing (and disappearing) at appropriate times and Charlie's acute visual memory, this unlikely duo form something resembling a friendship and solve puzzles along the way.
The Bottom Line: Hocus Pocus Hotel is the first book of a clever and entertaining new series that is sure to please kids. It contains two mysteries, but each is solved separately so that readers will not get confused. Kids will love the insight into how magic tricks are done, and it teaches reasoning skills along the way. Additionally, there are plentiful color illustrations and diagrams to illustrate the magic tricks. This is a fun and fast paced book; even reluctant readers will want to give it a try. Highly recommended for kids in Grades 3 - 6. I can't wait to read the next installment; The Return of Abracadabra is scheduled to be out February 1, 2013.
Details: Hocus Pocus Hotel written by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Lisa K. Weber. Hardcover published by Stone Arch Books in 2012. 216 p. ISBN: 978-1-4342-4253-2
Also available as 2 library bound editions: Out the Rear Window (978-1-4342-4038-5) and To Catch a Ghost (978-1-4342-4100-9)