Welcome to WonderLand: Home Sweet Motel

Although some people believe that facts are more important than fiction, Phineas Taylor Wilkie—who prefers to be called P.T.—isn’t a believer in the “truth conquers all” motto because he thinks that some stories have more power.  Chris Grabenstein–the award-winning bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library–shares that theory with tween readers in his recent book, Welcome to WonderLand: Home Sweet Motel, a book cleverly illustrated by Brooke Allenwonderland-200

P.T. and his mom Wanda live in a Florida motel on St. Pete’s Beach with Grandpa Walt, who wants nothing more than to snatch from “the other Walt,” the title of “Hottest Family Attraction in the Sunshine State” (12). P.T. loves his grandfather’s playful antics and storytelling, two traits—along with his optimism—that P.T. has adopted as his own.  P.T. claims it’s hard not to be an optimist “when you live in a place where a giant peanut can magically become a Hawaiian Happy-Stinky Fruit with a face” (19).  But his optimism wanes when he learns that his family may lose his home, the motel, which has fallen on hard times and has a $100,000 balloon payment due.

In an effort to save the motel, P.T. partners with twelve-year-old business wiz and marketing maven, Gloria Ortega.  Combining their imaginative vision and their business acumen, the team schemes to bring to visitors “the wonders and marvels they just can’t find in the cold gray slush of everyday life” (75).  The duo’s big ideas for treasure hunts, Croaky Karaoke, and other frog business not only generate revenue but a few unintended consequences as well, when a television spot brings criminal guests to the motel: Stanley and Sidney Sneemer, a pair of jewel thieves who stole five million dollars’ worth of diamonds and jewelry in 1973.

The finder’s fee would save the motel, but P.T.—who’s following Gloria’s business motto, “No risk; no reward”—isn’t the only one interested in finding the lost jewels.  Gloria reminds P.T. that that rule is for the stock market and doesn’t apply when people have guns.

This “poolside ice cream” book follows the two sleuths on their creative as well as their detective journeys—right into the literal lion’s den.  Playful illustrations complement the story, which concludes with P.T. Wilkie’s Outrageously Ridiculous and Occasionally Useful Stuff, like how to say, “Help, the toilet is clogged!” in over twenty languages.  Complete with a Fact or Fiction Quiz: Florida Edition and recipes for Frozen Green Pond Scum Punch and Pond Scum Slime Snacks, this book promises entertainment!

  • Posted by Donna

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