|Image from http://warrenthe13th.com/|
Written by Tania del Rio
Illustrated by Will Staehle
Quirk Books, 21 March 2017
I'm really grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book.
I don't often get to review children's books here at the Balloon (although I have one or two others coming up) which is kind of a pity because they are often the best written, sharpest and most readable books around. (I know this because I have two (now adult) children and we've had fun with books over the years - all for THEIR benefit of course.)
So it was a lovely surprise when Jamie at Quirk Books sent me an advance copy Warren the 13th. This is actually his second adventure, after Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye. It's definitely something different, perfectly matching del Rio's measured text to Staehle's beautifully moody line illustrations - you get some flavour of them from the cover image but the book itself is gorgeous, a real visual treat.
Warren himself is a 12 year old boy... perhaps... this is a world where nobody is what they seem and whether Warren is actually human or not isn't worth worrying too much about. More importantly, he is possessed of a hotel - his family's ancient and renowned hotel - which has lately taken to walking around the countryside of Fauntleroy on its four mechanical legs. Along with his friends Sketchy - a strange but lovable creature with many limbs - and Petula - a trainee perfumier (or witch catcher) and a delightfully batty staff, the hotel attracts guests from far and wide on its trips.
Which always, of course, avoid the Malwoods, home to all of Fauntleroy's most evil witches...
You may guess what's going to happen here but I won't reveal it. It's enough to say that Warren's courage, ingenuity and kindness will, again, be tested to the limit on a breakneck adventure filled with whispering trees, slippery snake-oil salesmen and, of course, WITCHES. On the way we have a try at code breaking, see why hotel management should never be left to a lazy uncle, and learn some lessons about how trustworthy the Press can be. It's very educational! - as well as being delightful fun.
I'd have read this to my kids at bedtime if it had been out ten years ago and I'm sure they'd have loved it. There's nothing too frightening, just a few moments of "peril" and, of course, the baddies get their come-uppance in the end - after which the hotel sets forth in a new direction...