Saturday, March 3, 2018

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Cure for: A snowed-in day

by Ben Guterson
Macmillan Publishing Group
January 2, 2018
(370 pages)

In the tradition of The Mysterious Benedict Society, comes a mystery full of smart characters and word puzzles. While it did have some creepy elements, this fell into more of the puzzler mystery than thriller.

Elizabeth's journey to Winterhouse begins when she is unexpectedly locked out of her house by her distantly-related Aunt and Uncle and given a bus ticket, three dollars for food, and a plastic bag with a few of her clothes. She wanted to stay home where she could read undisturbed. But when she arrives at Winterhouse, she quickly changes her mind. The place is amazing with all sorts of activities and interesting people.

She makes friends with another kid named Freddy, who like her, enjoys puzzles. Together, they compete to create word ladders, anagrams, breaking codes, and a scavenger hunt.

But soon, Elizabeth realizes that something mysterious is going on. Norbridge, the owner of the hotel, keeps sneaking around the library with a flashlight at night. And there is a coded message on one of the portraits in the gallery. As well as stories of a book that has magical properties to reinforce or undermine the goodness of Winterhouse.

I got the opportunity to attend a children's book club of this book, so I got exposure to much more feedback of the intended audience than I usually do. We spent quite a bit of time creating our own word ladders and asking just when the secret of the mystery was unlocked. But we also discussed issues of good and evil in terms of why people tend to identify with good characters than bad ones. The kids also brought up how jobs have to be done by somebody and driving a hearse was a particularly unappealing one.

One kid loves mysteries, but doesn't like scary things. She found this book so compelling, that she got through the scary parts and was surprised to find that she was even excited by them.

I am glad that this is the first in a series and I will definitely be reading more as they come out.


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