This was a really fun holiday read aloud smash up of magic, mystery, ghost story and Christmas. It’s like if Nancy Drew went to a Harry Potteresque hotel over Christmastime where books are somewhat sentient, the food is magical and plentiful, the guests and hotel staff are family, and ghosts roam the halls determined to bring an end to it all.
Elizabeth Somer lives with her cruel Aunt and Uncle after the death of her parents when she was young. Upon arriving home on the last day of school before Christmas break, Elizabeth finds her house locked, her Aunt & Uncle gone on holiday and a note on the door stating she is being sent off to Winterhouse hotel.
Winterhouse turns out to be a marvellous magical hotel full of kind (and a few sinister) characters. She quickly befriends a fellow puzzle loving boy – Freddy – who has similarly been dropped off at Winterhouse to spend the Christmas holiday. This hotel is a never ending playground of fun things to do – lavish swimming pools, enchanted libraries, haunted portrait galleries, skiing, sledding, skating, and a constant supply of Flurschen (the unique candy produced by the hotel). But all old hotels hold secrets and soon Elizabeth and Freddy find themselves at the centre of a ghostly clue hunting expedition, trying to crack an elusive code hidden in a portrait and save the hotel from an evil ghost set on destroying the hotel.
As mentioned, this is such a smash up of genres and just pure delight. My little and I loved this read aloud that was pitch perfect in tone and wonderfully atmospheric. Magic, mystery, and a bit of spookiness are the perfect combination for a cozy nightly read. Elizabeth is such an interesting, intelligent, Nancy Drew style code cracker of a character and her friendship with Freddy is charming.
From Norbridge Falls (the peculiar owner of the hotel) to Leona (the kindly, whip smart, grandmotherly Librarian) and kindly bellhops and cooks … the book just reads like a cozy embrace.
At it’s heart, Winterhouse is a story about finding that place where you belong, and in Elizabeth’s case a magical hotel filled with codes and potentially evil spirits determined to destroy you!