Move aside, Disney World! Here comes the Wonderland Motel in “Sandapalooza Shake-Up,” the third book in the humorous mystery series by clever children’s author Chris Grabenstein. Fans of the series know that P.T. and his friend Gloria solve mysteries while having a great time in St. Petersburg, Florida.
P.T. lives in the motel his grandfather started with his mom. The three of them run it, and Gloria and her newscaster father live there, too. In this story, the Wonderland Motel is doing great business because of the movie filmed there, which is important in the second book, “Beach Party Surf Monkey.” (The first book is “Welcome to Wonderland: Home Sweet Motel.”) Business is so good, they’ve opened a new restaurant, The Banana Shack, where a wonderful cook, Jimbo, works creating the best burgers to be found anywhere.
When royalty visits the motel, the press is there to cover it. The famous family artifact, a diamond tiara, is on its way to Disney World to be on display for a year. When it disappears, their long-time maid Clara gets blamed for the theft, and their despicable neighbor, Mr. Conch, who owns the hotel next door, publicizes the theft and steals all Wonderland’s guests.
Things look bleak for P.T. and his family, but he and Gloria decide they must solve the crime. Who took the tiara? And in their usual manner, they start to investigate everyone who might have done it. After a few dead ends and false findings, P.T. and Gloria do save the day. And along the way, readers are entertained with P.T.’s wacky stories and Gloria’s clever ideas. They make a great pair of detectives, and the idea that everyone at the motel is family is touching.
The illustrations throughout the story make it even more interesting because they are not illustrations of what is in the text, but rather additional information for the reader to absorb. Young readers love the combination of text and illustrations. Older readers might long nostalgically for the Florida of their youth (which is what Grabenstein bases this motel on). Everyone will love the humor, the mystery, and the quirky characters that fill the pages.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Random House Books for Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.