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Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel Hardcover – October 4, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Eleven-year-old P.T. Wilkie narrates this series starter. He lives at the Wonderland Motel in St. Pete's Beach, FL. His grandfather, Walt, founded the hotel in 1970 and did well until another Walt opened Disney World a year later. The Wilkies have been struggling to remain open ever since. P.T. always looks on the bright side. He doesn't push his single mom about who his dad is, he's close to his grandfather, and he thinks motel living, with its free ice cream and housekeeping, is just great. He's also an irrepressible storyteller, much to the chagrin of his neighbor and history teacher, Mr. Frumpkes. Unfortunately, his idyllic life is about to change in a month's time, thanks to a balloon loan coming due. His mom and grandpa need to come up with $100,000. The only way to do that is to sell the Wonderland to a sleazy developer. P.T. joins forces with Gloria Ortiz, a guest who happens to be a business whiz. As the two listen to Mr. Wilkie's tales about the early days of the Wonderland, they come up with a series of money-making ideas to save it. Complicating matters are a pair of elderly brothers who are not what they appear to be. This is classic Grabenstein—there are lots of sly asides and a tongue-in-cheek tone; a spirited, wise-guy hero in P.T.; a fast pace that edges a bit over-the-top; a vividly kitschy setting; and cartoon-style black-and-white illustrations throughout. The mystery should satisfy Grabenstein's "Mr. Lemoncello" followers, and the humor and visuals will appeal to fans of his collaborations with James Patterson. VERDICT This new series should be a hit among a variety of readers.—Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ
About the Author
Chris Grabenstein is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics, and The Island of Dr. Librisand has coauthored numerous bestselling books with James Patterson, including the I Funny, House of Robots, and Treasure Hunters series and Jacky Ha-Ha. Chris grew up going to St. Petersburg, Florida, every summer and loved visiting roadside attractions like Gatorland, the fabulous Tiki Gardens, Weeki Wachee Springs, and the “talking mermaids” at Webb’s City. You can visit Chris at chrisgrabenstein.com. And look for Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey in May 2017!
Top customer reviews
I listened to a little bit of this on the amazon site before I purchased and knew it would be perfect.
This is another story of a young middle school kid who wants to save his family's motel when their balloon loan comes due and they have 30 days to find $100,000 or lose the motel. PT Wilkie, our "hero" if you will, lives at the Wonderland Motel with his mother and the founder of the motel, Walt Wilkie (also called "The Other Walt" since this takes place in Florida) his grandfather.
PT is a story spinner. He can come up with yarns a mile long that are incredibly convincing, which is how he turns a frog slide at the pool into Croaky Karaoke and manages to make $3000 for the loan payment in one day. He has a little help from the business minded guest, Gloria Ortega, who is middle school going on Wall Street, to help find as many ways as they can to raise money and save the motel.
When two notorious crooks who have just been released from 40+ years in prison return to find the diamonds that were supposedly stashed at the motel by their accomplice, PT jumps on the chance to find them first and return them to the insurance company for the reward money, $150,000, so they can save the Wonderland Motel. It is then a madcap race to the finish between the crooks, the crooked insurance investigator who gets wind of the information and PT and Gloria to find the jewels first.
As I said, I thought this book started a little slow. I thought the descriptions of the Wonderland were campy and I thought PT was kind of obnoxious. However, as I read further into the book I really got to liking all the characters, especially grandpa and his fondness for this horrible sounding celery flavored soda. Yuck. As the story progressed, I was immediately sucked into the race to find the missing loot and save the Wonderland, which grows on you. While there are some silly hijinks, this is suitable for younger readers (I would say 7 and over) and can be read before bedtime as there is nothing frightening, just funny.
I will definitely be purchasing the second book in the series, which is promised May of 2017. I love Chris' writing and I look forward to many more of his charming stories.
P.T. Wilkie lives with his mother and grandfather at the Wonderland Motel. An unusual, eccentric creation built by P.T’s grandfather Walt, the one-time resort and small amusement park opened the year before Disneyworld. The lack of business and a balloon note that is due mean the motel is in danger of foreclosure. Through a series of promotions, P.T. and his friends, along with his grandfather, set out to save the motel. When a former customer returns for a walk down memory lane, P.T. learns the man is not who he says he is. The mystery of his identity and motive for returning to Wonderland add a twist to the story and result in a satisfying conclusion.
Plentiful illustrations that are to appear in the publisher’s edition will appeal to younger readers or to those for whom “Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel” serves as a bedtime read-aloud. Balloons containing the illustration-characters’ spoken words add little to the story, but are associated with the content of the chapters in which they appear – tongue-in-cheek humor makes some of these comments funny. They add visual interest and additional appeal to this entertaining book.
From the perspective of the target audience, “Welcome to Wonderland #1: Home Sweet Motel” is deserving of four stars. Situations are amusing - there are humorous moments that appeal to younger readers – and characters are likeable. The sixty-five chapters are short; sentence structure is not complex. It is in light of this book’s appeal to the target audience that I have rated the book as a 4-star read.
The book is peppered with plenty of fun single panel comic drawings related to the main storyline, and also includes several "fun pages" at the end of the book including a page on saying "Help the toilet is clogged" in twenty different languages, a Florida "Fact or Fiction" quiz (with answers available from the author's website), and two easy to make recipes. Overall, if you have a kid who love humor, over the top story spinning, and adventure without being too intense or scary, this is a good book to consider.