As the summer months approach, I find myself dreaming about reading by the ocean or under the branches of a big (preferably not Whomping or Old-Man) willow. And while I don’t usually have trouble finding books I like for my summer reading, I can sympathize with parents who want to find those that are suitable—and entertaining—for the whole family.
Kage Baker’s The Hotel Under the Sand, which will be available July of 2009, is one such book. It is the story of a young girl named Emma, who is displaced by a strange and devastating storm. She meets a ghostly bellboy named Winston who tells about the mystery of the Grand Wenlocke, the most remarkable hotel ever built, which disappeared a century before under the sands of the Dunes. Adventure, excitement and a good deal of magic ensue!
It’s exciting to come upon a book that serves not only as a great story to share with your kids, but one that has some undeniably unusual—and geeky—features. So, here are five particularly good reasons to read The Hotel Under the Sand with your kids this summer:
The right voice. Neither pedantic nor sing-songy, from the first paragraphs Baker’s narrative is comfortable, engaging and smooth sailing. While she’s known for her adult fiction, including the Hugo-nominated novella “The Empress of Mars”, Baker’s approach to kids (9-12 the book says) is challenging without being over-arching. In other words, I would have loved it at that age, and I still enjoyed it now.
Pirates! Really, need I say more? I mean, come on. Summer and pirates go together like peg-legs and parrots. Not to mention there are also ghosts, one-eyed cooks and a host of other curious and often very magical creatures.
A Difference Engine. I won’t give away the location or use of this, since it’s best you discover it on your own, but consider the conversations you can have with your kids on the topic! This steampunk-loving lady definitely got a little giddy. Not to mention the whole aesthetic is incredible; the hotel itself is a veritable character.
Illustrations by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Sound familiar? She’s done work for Wizards of the Coast and Alderac Entertainment Group, just to name a few. Having recently read The Graveyard Book, also illustrated, it’s definitely to a book’s interest to include well-drawn and whimsical art. It reminded me very much of Pauline Bayne’s contributions to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books.
The main character, Emma, is based on a real person, Kage Baker’s own niece. This hint of realism would have been a huge sell for me as a kid. According to Baker, “The real Emma went through a very bad family disaster when she was eight, and endured it with remarkable fortitude. I wrote the story to comfort her and sent it off in weekly installments. It got both of us through a bad time. She is now a poised and accomplished straight-A student with her sights set on Oxford, and bowled me over the other night by telling me she’d like to learn Latin so she can read Newton’s Principia in the original…”