Here is the Whippet Hotel, a very strange place: Each of its floors has its own eccentric personality, especially the hidden ones.
Carman has not only created a beguiling building but populated it with a sympathetic company of oddfellows, plus a few nefarious creatures (except the ducks, because, as readers are told, “ ‘Always bring a duck.’ Words to live by.” Readers will come to feel totally invested in the hotel, just as they will come to love Leo, the maintenance man’s 10-year-old son, in whose hands the fate of the rickety old joint rests when four strange boxes arrive. Cryptic utterances—“A flying goat will be of use”—are fun because there's always at least a sideways understanding of what it might mean, and there are clues that the reader can follow like breadcrumbs to the last, cheering pages. But it is the atmosphere that takes over, whether it is as heart-gladdening as when “the coffeepot filled the basement with the rich smell of morning,” or as curious as one of those ducks, whose “breath smelled like daffodils.” (“You’ve been eating the flowers on the grounds again, haven’t you?” Leo asked.)
The author is a fine storyteller; he rides the mystery right up to the edge invests his characters with quirks that aren’t merely cute but essential to the person’s identity. (Magical adventure. 9-12)