Taking a break from my massive reading of diverse books to write about this fun chapter book series, which arrived from the publisher at the height of Cybils madness.
The Gateway Quartet: The Four-Fingered Man, the Warriors of Brin-Hask, the Midnight Mercenary, and the Ancient Starship by Cerberus Jones. Kane Miller Books, 2016.
Elementary-school-aged, white Amelia and her crush-prone teen brother James are puzzled and less than thrilled when their parents decide to move them from the city to a run-down hotel in the middle of nowhere, Australia. What do their astrophysicist dad and diplomat mom see in it? Why does it already have guests, even when it’s barely habitable, and why is there a mysterious caretaker (missing a finger), who seems to be doing nothing to improve the sorry state of the building and grounds? Amelia quickly befriends Charlie, the son of the housekeeper, and the two of them try to solve the mystery. (Charlie, we find out eventually, experiences some prejudice at school because his father was an immigrant from Greece.)
Spoiler: the old hotel is located on a gateway between worlds, and the hotel is filled with guests from around the multiverse, all disguised with the help a device that lets them look and feel human during their stay. Running the hotel is of course the perfect job for both parents, though it takes some time especially for skeptical James to come to terms with the move and accept the strange new reality. Each book involves an encounter with guests from different places, with stakes increasing every time. There are some lessons about friendship and honor learned along the way, but kids will be in it for the adventure.
How I wish I had these a couple of years ago, when my son was struggling to find print books that were easy enough for him to read but matched his interests in science fiction! At about 140 pages each but high interest, these are perfect for readers who are just beginning to outgrown early chapter books – what Charlotte calls not quite middle grade – whether they’re advanced younger readers or older readers who find the books marketed to their age overwhelming and the typical early chapter books too babyish. Though I could wish for more ethnic diversity among the humans to go along with all the galactic diversity, the Australian setting gives some variety at least for American readers. The books are lots of fun and well worth hunting down or requesting from your library, especially for kids caught in that gap between reading and interest levels. Thanks to Kane Miller for sending them my way! My copies will now be headed to the school library, possibly with a detour for my daughter to read them first.