Welcome to StregaSchloss, the ancestral castle of the Scottish clan Strega-Borgia. Ignore the sign at the gate that reads, "Warning! Trespassers will be (a) served for breakfast, (b) turned into frogs, (c) forced to eat Brussels sprouts." Cross over the drawbridge, try not to get eaten by the crocodile in the moat, ring the bell, and don't flinch when the butler, Latch, drags open the heavy door and intones "You rang?" Meet the inhabitants: Titus, 12; his sister Pandora, 10; the baby, Damp; their Mary Poppins-like nanny, Mrs. McLachlan; the grim housemaid, Marie Bain; and down in the dungeon, the large untidy house pets--a yeti, a griffin, and a dragon. Signora Strega-Borgia is away at her witchcraft class; Signor Strega-Borgia has been kidnapped by his evil brother, and at the bottom of the freezer in the wine cellar is the ancestral grandmother, Strega-Nonna, wrapped in several layers of aluminum foil, waiting for a cure for old age to be discovered. Now get ready for some of the most deliciously bizarre and hilarious goings-on ever to grace a cyber-gothic-gangster fantasy. Pandora accidentally shrinks Damp with her mother's Disposawand and the tiny baby crawls into the computer modem and is whisked away into cyberspace; some spectacularly inefficient gangsters (including one in a rabbit suit) arrive and are up to no good; Titus sends his pet spider, Tarantella, into the Internet (mother of all webs) to find Damp; and Mrs. McLachlan comes to everybody's rescue in an uproarious finale to the most original fantasy in years. (Ages 10 to 14) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Gliori's (Tell Me What It's Like to Be Big) debut novel merges traditional fantasy with high technology; the result is a bit of a conceptual mish-mash with a tangled plot, enlivened by an eccentric sense of humor. In Scottish castle StregaSchloss, the three Borgia children (12-year-old Titus, 10-year-old Pandora and a 14-month-old girl, Damp) find their family in crisis: their father has disappeared, their heartbroken mother is busy at witchcraft school and the pet mythical beasts that live in the dungeon are growing restless. When Pandora borrows her mother's magic wand and loses her baby sister in the modem (the technological practicalities are a stretch) the children must rely on a smart-talking spider to rescue Damp from the information superhighway while they also try to save their father from his evil, elephant-nosed brother. Computer-savvy readers will no doubt be frustrated ("What you've failed to grasp, o leggily-challenged one, is that this is virtual travel. Not real travel," says the spider to Pandora, shortly before they actually send themselves, via e-mail, to the nefarious brother's house). Others will wonder why the villain prevents the father from e-mailing the police but allows him to e-mail his family for help. But bathroom humor abounds (dragon diarrhea, a hit-man in a rabbit suit peeing in his outfit) and Gliori's oddball characters are certainly good fun; the book and its two projected sequels may charm audiences despite its flaws. Ages 10-up.
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