✰✰✰✰½ Get ready for a magical adventure in England. When Stuart Horten and his family move to his father's sleepy little hometown of Beeton, little does he know that he is in for the adventure of a lifetime. While his parents are very tall, Stuart is small for his age. He is 10, but looks 8. It doesn't take long for Stuart to learn that his great-uncle, "Teeny-Tiny" Tony Horten, was short too. But good things come in small packages, and Stuart learns that Tony was a magician. Unfortunately, Tony disappeared during World War II and was never heard from again.
Soon after moving to Beeton, Stuart finds eight threepenny bits and a cryptic note in a magic money box. It seems that great-uncle Tony had left behind his magical workshop. According to the note, if he's the right sort of boy to find it, he can have it. So with nothing in particular to do, Stuart sets out on his bike to discover great-uncle Tony's lost legacy. However, when dealing with magic and magicians, things aren't always straight forward. The clues are scattered around town, but each clue has a price - a threepenny bit. To complicate matters, great-uncle Tony's old house is scheduled for demolition soon. Not only is Stuart running out of threepenny bits, but he's also running out of time. Add to that a set of identical triplets, April, May, and June Kingley, who live next door and are budding journalists, and the mystery seems overwhelmingly unsolvable. With the odds stacked against him, Stuart presses on, but realizes he will never be able to do it all alone. That's when he finds help in the most unexpected person.
The Bottom Line: This new series is fast-paced and easy to read. Kids will relate to Stuart as he struggles with his height issues and tries to fit into a new place. After all, making new friends is never easy especially when your parents are bit eccentric. As he tries to solve the mystery of what happened to his great-uncle, Stuart uncovers a variety of clues hidden in puzzles. Readers will enjoy solving the puzzles with Stuart and following the clues to a magical end. Along the way he actually learns about friendship, trust, and persistence. This enjoyable read will appeal to both boys and girls in grades 4 - 6 who are interested in mysteries and magic. Additionally, the author manages to sneak in new vocabulary words without slowing down the story. Simply fantastic!
Details: Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery & A Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans. Hardcover published by Sterling Children's Books in 2012. 272 p. ISBN: 978-1-4027-9806-1