#164 – Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

5 Stars
Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms
By Lissa Evans
Sterling Publishing Co.
No. Pages: 272   Ages:  8 to 12

Back cover:  When ten-year-old Stuart stumbles upon a note daring him to find his great uncle’s hidden workshop, full of wonderful mechanisms, trickery, and magic, he sets out on a Willy Wonka-like adventure of a lifetime. In order to find the place, Stuart must believe the unbelievable—while dodging the annoyingly prying eyes of his triplet neighbors, April, May, and June.  With clues to follow, puzzles to solve, and the quirkiest characters, this uniquely charming fiction debut by comedienne Lissa Evans is sure to enchant middle-grade readers—and believers—everywhere.

...............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.

...............Your uncle Tony

...............P.S. Start in the telephone booth on
...............Main Street.


Stuart Horten is ten-years-old and short for his age. This is unusual since both his parents are “very tall.” They are also clever people, hence Stuart’s name: S. Horten. Mom is a researcher in the medical field and Dad is a cruciverbalist—writer of crosswords puzzles—and he loves to speak words any kid would consider odd and embarrassing.

...............I was just thinking of going for a brief 
.................. ..perambulation.

..............This whole area was

..............Breadmaker's  quantity unlucky for the 

This clever insertion of difficult and unusual words, with the definition placed in the dialogue, all without stopping a beat in the flow of the story, reminded me of the Lemony Snicket books A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The Horten’s move away from the home Stuart treasures. He will miss the parties his friends have planned for the summer. To say the least, he is one unhappy kid after being forced to move. The family returns to Beeton, the child home of Stuart’s dad.  There,  Stuart is bored and also snarly with his parents. Still, the first day brings him an adventure he will never forget.

One day, Stuart’s Great Uncle Tony disappeared. The young man simply vanished. Before he evaporated that Christmas Eve, Tony went to Stuart’s father’s home, but he was asleep. He left the then boy a small coin box. Mr. Horten still has the box, using it to hold paper clips.

Stuart finds a fake bottom on the box and opens it. Inside are enough coins to send Stuart on a whirlwind path of mechanisms and magic, leading to an answer the entire town of Beeton will want to know.   The adventure of a lifetime, meant for one young Horten, but taken on by another many years later, begins. Would it even be possible to find clues or the workshop after all these years?

April, May, and June

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms is the debut children’s novel from Lissa Evans. Ms. Evans has written a smart, convoluted adventure for Stuart. It was nearly impossible to lie down this page turner, before finishing.  The adventure segments and clues are ingeniously linked together leading to an impossible climax that will have every reader thinking “The workshop was there all this time?”

I love the tone of the book. I liked the pacing, the humor, the rhythms of sentences, and the distinctive voices of each character, including the town of Beeton. Beeton residents are quirky characters, some deliciously fun, others delightfully ruthless. Identical triplets April, May, and June are a triple threat.

Stuart tries to solve the mystery of his Great Uncle Tony’s disappearance—as does a ruthless magician who wants Tony’s workshop full of secrets. Add in identical triplet girls, who follow Stuart trying to get a story for their homemade neighborhood newspaper, and you have a book that middle grade kids will devour.

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery & A Very Strange Adventure was originally published in Great Britain, by Doubleday, as Small Change for Stuart.   I’m not big on lengthy titles so I prefer the English title best.  Short, hits the starting point and names the protagonist in a mere three words.  The U.S. title works, yet it is difficult to completely remember.

The year 2012 is proving to be full of wonderful debut novels from many new up and coming authors. Lissa Evan’s Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery & A Very Strange Adventure is near the top of that growing list. Guerdons, please!

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & A Very Strange Adventure

Author:  Lissa Evans   website
Publisher:  Sterling Children's Books   website
Release Date: April 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4027-9806-1
Number of Pages: 272
Ages: 8 to 12 +

Horten’s Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure

Book number two will release in September of this year.  It is titled Horten’s Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure.  


Question:  What is your favorite magic trick?

7 thoughts on “#164 – Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

    • Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms is truly a book for you Eric. I know you will devour it. I’d love to hear a review from you–you know the “kid’s opinion.” If you should review it, let me know and I will add a link here to your review.


  1. Oh, I really like the sound of this book. I’m going to add it to my TBR pile for my daughter. I think she would really enjoy it! Thanks! 🙂


    • Hi Renee,

      If you do get Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms, she will love the story and the crazy characters. It seems only Stuart is “normal,” except in stature. I suggest you read it beforehand.

      Not to check it for decency or anything like that. This is a hand-it-to-your-kid-book, kind of like the video games plug-in-play items.

      I suggest you read it first because it is hilarious, well written, funny, and all the other great things books can be with the right author. Plus, you will be able to talk about the story with your daughter when it is freshly minted in her precious brain.

      Stuart’s dad is a hoot, with his odd-ball speech and crazy words. Maybe you could imitate him while she has the story, peppering your sentences with odd-ball words. The two of you could go on an perambulation and talk about the adventure.


      • Great advice! I often find myself using phrases in everyday conversation from the books we read. Especially the ones from British authors – the terminology is sometimes different. I do have to admit, I do get a lot more eyerolls though! lol


    • Hi Diane,

      Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms is fantastic. Thanks for the compliment.

      The author has written two books for adults, but this is her first for children. So, she does have more experience than the average debut children’s author. But she nailed it.

      I was unaware this would be a series. Nothing was mentioned on the ARC or the PR I have. When I got to the end, I wanted to know more. It seems there was more to this story. I am very pleased there will be at least one more–possibly more! I am trying to get a copy so I can review it here. Finger’s crossed!


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