Thursday, January 06, 2022

The House on Hoarder Hill

Lish, Mikki and Ngai, Kelly. The House on Hoarder Hill
August 3rd 2021 by Chicken House

Hedy and her younger brother Spencer are sent to spend winter break with their Grandpa John, whom they haven't seen for some time, because their parents have to go off on an archaeological dig. Their grandfather was a famous magician who has been depressed ever since a magic trick went awry and his wife, Rose, went missing. He's not thrilled to have his grandchildren around, especially since his big, spooky house is packed to the gills with tricks and memorabilia that he doesn't want the two to touch. There are some good reasons for this that they discover when they go into rooms where they shouldn't be going. There are reasons-- Hedy wants to find out what happened to her grandmother, since no one will talk about her. When a picture frame magically has words appear, "find me", Hedy is sure this is a message. The two children find a talking bear rug and deer head who let them in on some of the secrets of the house and the grandfather. Another message, "Ask Nobody for help", reveals another magician, Mr. Nobody, whose spirit is being kept in the attic. The secrets pile up, and Hedy and Spencer enlist their nearby cousins to help them. When Mr. Nobody threatens the family, will they, and their grandfather, be able to keep the house safe?

This was a very British book, with lots of tea and a stern but helpful housekeeper, and parents that feel a need to suddenly abandon children with estranged relatives.  Hedy and Spencer get along well, and their cousins Max and Jelly, join in to the adventure willingly, and a great uncle fuels their interest in the fate of their grandmother. The parents do manage to return home at a critical moment, and in time for Christmas.

There are a variety of magical elements that are very appealing. Doug, the talking rug, and Stan the deer, are magical but benign enough for the children to trust. They are good allies when the children release the evil Mr. Nobody without their grandfather's knowledge. The Kaleidos, which is probably responsible for Rose's disappearance, is an excellent mystical tool. There is quite a blurred line between what "tricks" the grandfather does, and what actual magic he might have. 

For readers who like spooky houses, like the ones in Funaro's Watch Hollow, West's Long Lost, Oliver's Curiosity House series, Dawson's Mine, or Benko's Unicorn Quest, visiting Grandpa John's house near Marberry Rest will be a great way to spend some time. This also reminded me strongly of Harrison's Pinch of Magic, Carman's Floors series or Anderson's The Memory Thief, and even had a touch of John Bellairs' The House with a Clock in Its Walls to it. 

Books about magicians, like those about pirates or circuses, don't circulate well in my library, and since this seems to be available only in paperback, I will pass on purchasing for my library.

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed several appealing-sounding books from Chicken House lately. It is a pity children don't always read books they might really enjoy if they tried. I am learning that the hard way now that I am in a children's library once a month. On the other hand, I think if this branch had multiple copies of things like The Book of Three I could get a lot more people to try it.