Genre: Fiction, children’s lit
Medium: French hardback
Synopsis: Warren the 13th is 12 years old, an orphan, the heir to a hotel, and strangely optimistic, given how unlucky he is. He lives with his uncle Raoul, aunt Anaconda, and the few hotel workers. The hotel hasn’t seen a patron in years, leaving Warren to be tormented by his evil aunt and ignored by his lovesick uncle. But, one day, a patron arrives. He doesn’t speak, and he’s covered in bandages like a mummy. Aunt Anaconda immediately knows that this curious patron is after the All-Seeing Eye, a hidden hotel relic that’s only rumored to exist. Warren must fend for himself and forge new alliances when the hotel is threatened, but how can he possibly do so?
Review: There are so many things that I loved about this book. I bought it at first because a) I’m really into children’s literature (this is perfect for fifth or sixth graders), and b) this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I’ve ever seen. So therefore, I had to have it.
Let’s talk plot and structure first–wow. This book probably has one of the best uses of Chekhov’s Gun in it. For those who don’t know, Chekhov’s Gun is a literary device that basically says “don’t introduce a gun in chapter one if you’re not going to fire it in chapter three.” So, this means that everything in Warren 13 has a purpose, and things that are important to the plot and structure of this book are referenced to early on. This makes for a more solid and steady storyline. In addition to this, Chekhov’s Gun can be found in the book’s illustrations, too–so pay attention!
And, in terms of plot, some things did really surprise me! Since it’s a children’s book, there are some things that are “obvious” (to me, at least–to be fair, I’m an adult reading this children’s book), such as a scary creature actually being very friendly. But, there were some other “obvious” things that really weren’t so obvious or straight-forward at all. And that’s really nice. It’s not a predictable book–some things are good for teaching foreshadowing and inference, and some things are good for showing how to purposefully mislead your readers. All in all, it’s great fun.
Now, for style. If you took the pictures and typography out of this book, it would no longer hold. Take a look at these two pictures:
Already, there’s a huge difference. The white pages are from Warren 13’s perspective, and the black are from Anaconda’s. Each page, at the very top, has a short description of what’s on that page. They can be anything from “Warren makes a friend” to “Anaconda punishes Warren.” But, on the black pages, those headers are reversed, and you are forced to read them backwards or with the aid of a mirror. These kinds of details really make the book, in my opinion. It’s fun, it’s artsy, it’s interesting, and most importantly–it’s engaging.
And finally, the art. Oh my god, the art. It’s so good. Good job, Will Staehle, if you’re reading this. Here’s my favorite illustration from the whole book:
I mean, first of all, #goals. Basically this illustration is who I want to be when I’m older. Second of all, look at that contrast. Those details! These illustrations are so unique and beautiful that I think you should buy the book just for them.
All in all, I was astounded by the artistry–both written and drawn–of this book. It was fun, engaging, and I can tell you all right now that I am so excited for the second one to be released in some months’ time.