Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans is a perfect example to me of what middle grade fiction is all about. It’s funny, adventurous, and doesn’t “talk down” to young readers. I was pretty sure I’d be adding it to our 5 Star Reads when I was only about 20 pages in.
Stuart Horten has to move away from the town he has lived in his entire life when his mom gets a new job. His dad can do his crossword puzzle writing job anywhere, so the family decides to move to Beeton, England, which happens to be where Stuart’s father grew up. He’s not happy about it at all, and everyone knows that the beginning of summer is the worst time for a 10-year-old to move, because it’s hard to get to know people.
The triplets next door — April, May, and June — are more nosy nuisances than friend material, but they don’t give up in trying to find out everything about Stuart, so they can publish it in their homemade local newspaper.
Stuart finds a mysterious clue in a family artifact of his father’s. The clue was left to his father from his famous magician uncle (who mysteriously disappeared one day), but his father never found it, because he must not have been the “right kind of boy.”
I have to go away, and I may not be able to get back. If I don’t return, then my workshop and all it contains is yours if you can find it — and if you can find it, then you’re the right sort of boy to have it.
I loved Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms most of all for the people: a brave, imperfect hero, a determined young girl, a greedy villain, a sweet old woman, quirky parents. The story is fun, but the characters made the story sing.
The book stands well on it’s own (no cliffhanger ending), but because I loved the first book so much, I am thrilled to know there is a second book coming out in September: Horten’s Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure (you can preorder now on amazon or Barnes and Noble). I happen to have an advanced copy in my hands, so look for a review at the end of August!
And I’m happy to be able to offer a giveaway copy of Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms to one of you. Just leave a comment if you know a 3rd – 6th grader who’d enjoy this book (or if you yourself are charmed by this type of story). We’ll announce the winner in our giveaway column on August 1. The giveaway is closed.
The winner of Rules of Civility is #36 Ed Nemmers.
This book reminds me of other delightful 5 Star Reads
(OR if you like them, you’ll like this one too)
- The Mysterious Benedict Society books (though this one is a bit shorter, so not as intimidating for some readers)
- The Kneebone Boy.