by Michael Dahl
Lisa K. Weber, illustrator
Capstone Young Readers
Back Cover: After fifty years, the master magician Abracadabra has returned. But so has his greatest rival—the Great and Powerful Theopolis. In this second book in Michael Dahl’s masterful, mystery series, nothing is what it seems . . . and magic waits through every doorway.
Opening: “On Friday at three o’clock, Tyler Yu and Charlie Hitchcock stood together just inside the back doors of Blackstone Middle School. Each of them clutched a packet of bright yellow paper.”
Abracadabra Hotel, once the scene for magic shows of every kind by magicians of every type, is not as busy as it once was. Just ask the elevator operator Mr. Brack. He has worked at the hotel since the day it opened. Brack has seen the place crowded and now sees it sparsely occupied. In book 1, which I have not read, Tyler Yu and Charlie Hitchcock uncovered a couple of secrets. In book 2, there will be more, bigger secrets. Maybe the biggest of them all. Mr. Abracadabra, who owns the hotel, will be returning after hiding away for fifty years. No one has seen him in all those years—or so everyone believes, but with a magician, one never knows.
Charlie & Tyler
The Great and Powerful Theopolis, self-proclaimed world’s best magician, is the antagonistic antagonist. He is the Saturday morning cartoon villain, always acting as if he is the King’s king, but is really just a jerk with an attitude. He has a way of scaring people, more like a bully than a world-class magician. It is hard to like him. Theopolis is at the hotel—staying on the never occupied thirteenth floor—with the intention of taking over the hotel. When magician Abracadabra returns, Theopolis pushes him into a bet. If Abracadabra, aided by Charlie and Tyler, cannot figure out how Theopolis does an elaborate and impossible magic act, Theopolis wins Abracadabra Hotel. Feeling in a corner, Abracadabra accepts the bet. They have about 24 hours to figure out how Theopolis does the trick.
I like Hocus Pocus Hotel because of the daring way the author exposes the tricks played on Charlie and Tyler. Charlie, the smart and grounded “detective,” is the one who explains these and others. Tyler is smarter than he thinks, provides the muscle, and is rather gullible. Between the two, the boys have a dynamic secret-solving team. As the story moves along, the magic gets more complicated, as do the diagrams used to explain the trick. It’s fun knowing how these tricks are done. I doubt I could recreate the tricks, but it might be fun to take these diagrams and try.
The Great & Powerful Theopolis
Hocus Pocus Hotel will entertain both boys and girls. The action never stops. I like that Tyler has doubts about Charlie’s loyalties. This is typical thinking for a bully to worry about those around him. Then again, Charlie has figured out two important secrets without sharing them with Tyler (at Mr. Brack’s request).There is no “dark magic” in the story, nor any violence. The “win-the-hotel” trick Theopolis pulls on Mr. Abracadabra is complicated, has a lot of showmanship, but is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
I enjoyed reading the story, which went by quickly. Hocus Pocus is readable out of order and the book at hand will make sense, but I recommend reading them in order. I would have liked to read about the boys becoming friends. Tyler bullied Charlie at school in book 1. Knowing how the boys got past this is not essential to enjoy book 2, it just would have been nice to know.
Hocus Pocus Hotel is a magical series. The writing is good, the illustrations are fun, and the story pulls you in and keeps you guessing. If you like magic you will love Hocus Pocus Hotel. If you are not a fan of magic, as I am not, Hocus Pocus Hotel will still thrill you. The story is about friendship, loyalty, honor, and trust. Diagrams demystify each magic trick in the story. With keen observation, the reader can figure out what is happening and solve the secrets alongside the Charlie and Ty, if not faster. I wasn’t so fast. The final page wraps up the story nicely, while also making me yearn for book #3, which I hope is available soon. Until then, you can find me in Abracadabra Hotel, reading Hocus Pocus Hotel, #1.
Released August 1, 2013
Age 8 to 12
HOCUS POCUS HOTEL #2: THE RETURN OF ABRACADABRA. Text copyright © 2013 by Michael Dahl. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Lisa K. Weber. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN
Also by Michael Dahl: Goodnight Baseball (Sports Illustrated Kids)