Wednesday 3 July 2019

Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth

Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth by Lisa Nicol (Puffin Books) PB RRP $16.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

By the end of the three-page preface this novel for readers 9 to 12 years had me hooked. The preface’s narrator is the book’s author who introduces the story in a quirky, humorous style which makes you want to read on. The author often refers to her ‘co-author’ and it’s a surprise (and sad) to read at the end of the book who the co-author was.

The main character in Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth is Vincent who has a younger sister Rose (who calls herself Marilyn as she aspires to being a movie star) and an even younger brother Thom who has behavioural problems that fully claim his parents’ attention (and money) as they try to find a cure for what ails him.

The story begins with Vincent being willed a shoe-shine kit by his late grandfather and sees him being employed by the grandest hotel in the world. Young Florence, at eleven, the same age as Vincent, whose family owns the grand hotel, and Rupert the concierge, hire Vincent. He’s taken on a guided tour of the hotel’s grounds where guests arrive by hot-air balloon. There is everything (and more) in the grounds with its own heavily stocked zoo filled with exotic animals. Rupert takes Vincent and other guests, including Max, a maddening young juvenile delinquent, on a tour of the Grand. 

They are introduced to a colony of sloths, Vincent’s favourite animal, as well as swimming pools, a bowling alley, roller skating rink, outdoor chest board and more (including the Junkyard of Broken and Abandoned Dreams).

All through this richly imaginative and absurd tale, the author’s voice interrupts the story’s action with asides and explanations, making the reader feel as though she is fully immersed in what’s happening. The story is filled with many memorable sentences and phrases such as ‘he fell into the armchair like a tangle of freshly cooked spaghetti into a bowl’ and ‘he stretched the truth like a piece of bubble gum.’ The characters, too, are brought vividly to life.  

The first half of the book is fantastical, the second, when Vincent returns home, having been sacked by Florence, is realistic. Like the beginning, there is much appeal to the reader’s emotions.

This book is sure to win awards, including children’s choice book awards. It is highly recommended.

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