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Evans borrows several classic tropes and themes-magic, riddles, a quest, and even a night at a museum-for the entertaining story of 10-year-old Stuart Horten (often nicknamed "Shorten" for his small stature) who stumbles into a family mystery when he and his parents move to the small British town of Beeton. There, -Stuart discovers that his Great-Uncle Tony Horten, who disappeared years ago without a trace, was both an inventor of mechanical devices and a magician. A chance phone call in a broken phone booth is the first step in a journey that leads Stuart around town, as he unearths his great-uncle's legacy and secrets. Stuart also draws the attention of April, May, and June (the journalistically inclined triplets next door), as well as Beeton residents with more sinister intentions. Evans has crafted an old-fashioned mystery of the kids-besting-clueless-adults variety. Stuart's dweeby parents are particularly hapless (his father, a crossword puzzle creator, regularly drops lines like "Behold, I bring hydration for your powwow"). First published in the U.K., Evans's story leaves the door open for the sequel due in September. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Stuart Horten, 10, is sure he is in for the dullest summer ever when he moves with his working-all-the-time mom and dork-supreme dad, who is excited to return to the town he grew up in. Stuart's lack of enthusiasm is compounded by a set of nosy triplet girls next door, but things start looking up when he learns about how his great-uncle Tony who was a magician of some renown and an inventor of fabulous contraptions disappeared years ago. And then things get downright exciting when he discovers a handful of old coins that unlock a series of clues scattered about town that promise to reveal the location of Tony's long-hidden workshop. Stuart is a likable, plucky little guy, the Charlie Bucket to great-uncle Tony's Willy Wonka. While the mystery is tempered by the fact that solutions to the clues often come about more by happenstance than any cunning on Stuart's part, the elements of magical realism that waft through the narrative keep things humming along nicely. This British import, longlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, leaves the door ajar for more adventures.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist