Thursday, 5 July 2012

Floors


Floors Floors by Patrick Carman, illustrated by David Wyatt and Chris Turnham (Chicken House)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 1906427909
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Floors is a fabulous book! It’s a crazy romp through the wild imagination of Patrick Carman, who has created a fictional hotel, The Whippet, to rival any in our known world. It has official floors and secret floors, internal hidden floors, high speed elevators for ducks, expansive gardens and quirky guests. The Whippet is the creation of eccentric millionaire and inventor, Merganzer Whippet, who leaves the running of his unusual establishment in the hands of a terse manager, Ms Sparks and the maintenance crew, consisting of Leo Fillmore and his father Clarence, who reside in the basement, snug against the boiler.

And don’t forget the ducks. Every good mystery must have ducks. You never know when one will come in handy.

The colourful cover of this book is immediately appealing, jammed with all sorts of interesting elements from the story, which catch the eye and fire the imagination. There’s a shark’s head emitting tickertape maintenance orders, a chatty robot, cogs and wheels, lurking shadows and a boy in a suspended bucket shining a torch into the gloom. Merganzer’s distinctive profile is seen in silhouette, just as it appears on stationery and mysterious boxes throughout this intriguing story.

As a rebellion against massive over-development in the city, a haven from the vertical urban sprawl, the Whippet Hotel is a sanctuary for guests and a troubling enigma for greedy developers. Leo, our child hero, adores Merganzer Whippet and is dismayed when the proprietor leaves the hotel unexpectedly. But then messages begin to appear, especially for Leo. Boxes must be found and their contents utilized in a tightly woven quest to save the hotel from ruin. Ms Sparks adds tension, as does the ominous Bernardo Frescobaldi, a millionaire with his eye on the dilapidated hotel and parklands taking up valuable real estate. Leo befriends younger boy, Remi, whose mother works as a maid in the hotel and trust develops. He also enlists the dubious assistance of a small robot who can’t stop blabbing.

Leo and his father are extremely loyal to their beloved hotel and keep it in working order as best they can. They know all its little foibles, but lately disaster has struck every day and they are scrambling around the building trying to contain it and please the finicky guests, who keep threatening to leave. It seems someone wants the Whippet to fail. Is it Captain Rickenbacker? Mrs Yancey? Mr Bump?

I enjoyed the twists and turns, the strangely themed rooms and floors, such as the Cupcake Room, The Room of Rings, The Central Park Room, The Puzzle Room and the terrifying, Flying Farm Room. Despite his love of the Whippet, Leo’s life is frequently in danger as he follows the trail of clues left to him by Merganzer Whippet.

Carman has an easy style and endearing sense of humour which he sprinkles upon plot and character alike. Floors was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

Dawn Meredith is a May Gibbs Fellow and author living in the Blue Mountains. www.dawnmeredithauthor.blogspot.com

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