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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pigeon Peril: The Mesmer Menace (Gadgets & Gears) by Kersten Hamilton

WALTER'S HAIR WAS ALL STANDING ON END WHEN HE WOKE ME TO DEMONSTRATE HIS INVENTION.

"IT IS FINISHED, NOODLES," HE SAID, HOLDING UP A SMALL VEST WITH BAT-LIKE FOLDING WINGS.

I TRIED TO SHAKE THE SLEEP OUT OF MY EARS AS HE BUTTONED ME INTO IT.

"YOU'RE AMAZING!" WALLY SAID.

I WAGGED. THE WINGS FLAPPED UP AND DOWN!

"YOU CAN DO IT, BOY!"

MY WAGGER WENT WILD.  SUDDENLY, I CAME FULLY AWAKE TO FIND THAT I'D RISEN TO THE CEILING.

Dachshund Noodles believes that the problem is not with his loyalty, but his acrophobia.  I mean, not even a devoted dachshund can keep wagging when his wagger is all that keeps him aloft over an abyss!

But life is pleasant, if a bit wacky living with a family of eccentric inventors, until Wally Kinnewickett opens the door of the Automated Inn to a hobo and things take a turn for the outright bizarre.

"HOW CAN WE HELP YOU? " CALYPSO KINNEWICKETT ASKED THE HOBO KINDLY. "BREAKFAST, PERHAPS?"

"WE'VE NO TIME FOR THAT," THE HOBO SAID. HE TOOK OFF HIS COAT AND HAT.

WALLY GASPED. "THEODORE ROOSEVELT!"

MR. PRESIDENT!" OLIVER KINNEWICKETT EXCLAIMED. "WHAT AN UNEXPECTED HONOR!"

"THE COUNTRY NEEDS YOUR AMAZING BRAINS, KINNEWICKETTS," SAID THE PRESIDENT.

It seems a nefarious gang of magicians plan to use their powers to mesmerize the leaders of the country, gain mind control over them, and take over the nation, if not the world. T. R. urges Wally's parents, Calypso and Oliver, to turn their inventive minds to espionage to avert the coming catastrophe. The senior Kinnewicketts quickly pack and prepare to leave in disguise with the President, leaving Walter to manage their Atmospheric Electron Collector designed in collaboration with Nikola Tesla, aided by their staff of automatons, Gizmo the housekeeper, Knives the cook, and dozens of automated Dust Bunnies who keep the Automated Inn clean.

But no sooner do the President and his two new covert operatives disguise themselves and take the train to Washington, than the chief Mesmer of them all, in the form of the so-called Mr. Potts and his mustachioed assistant Mr. Slade, arrive at the Inn, pretending to be pop corn purveyors visiting to view Mrs. Kinnewickett's invention, the surplus electron corn popper.

But with them comes a peculiar pigeon, Iron Claw, who has one spinning eye capable of mesmerizing anyone who gazes at it. Wally soon sees through the ruse and invents for himself some special spectacles impervious to the pigeon's stare, while everyone else falls under its spell, even Wally's supercilious cousins Prissy and Melvin and the entire automatonic staff.  Wally realizes that he must get word to the telegraph office asking Mrs. Roosevelt to contact his parents to return and foil the plot, but with Potts and Slade watching his every move, the young Kinnewickett realizes that his only hope lies in Wally's wag-powered wings to carry the message to the town telegraph office. It's all up to Noodles' wagger to power his flight, but can a dachshund hampered by a deathly fear of heights manage a long flight and a sustained wag?

Kersten Hamilton's first in a projected series, The Mesmer Menace: Gadgets and Gears, Book One (Clarion Books, 2013), has all the trappings of sci fi fantasy adventure, a  pair of evil magicians, a family of famed wacky inventors who put the kabash on evil while perfecting an unlimited (and carbon-emission-free) source of electricity to power the world.  Wally is the quintessential kid genius inventor, and his dachshund Noodles is the, er, dogged narrator of this comedic introduction to the quirky Kinnewicketts for young readers who like their fantasy on the spoofy side.

"Steampunk with training wheels for the chapter-book set!" quips Kirkus Reviews.

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