The Hotel Under the Sand: 08/02/12
The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker opens with Emma surviving a terrible storm in which she loses everything and everyone in her life. She washes up on the Dunes and spends the first night surviving a sand storm. On her second day she meets a ghost and discovers a long buried hotel.
The narrative style brings to mind Roald Dahl. It begins with extraordinary but relatively unexplained circumstances and proceeds through a series of adventures. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie, though destitute, finds the last remaining Golden Ticket, and for the remainder of the book, takes the our of Willy Wonka's factory where each new room is more usual and dangerous than the last. Emma's adventures are contained within the walls of her hotel and are primarily focused on a treasure hunt left behind by the hotel's owner.
Along the way Emma brings together an unlikely set of friends, comprised of a ghost, a runaway, a pirate and a cook. These sorts of ensemble casts with a single child and her collected friends, was de rigueur when I was a child but have fallen out of practice in lieu of a pair (or sometimes trio) of adventuring siblings. Emma's solo status was a refreshing change.
The book would work well for a class read along. The relatively straightforward treasure hunting plot combined with a manageable vocabulary would make it fun book for teachers looking for something newer to read with students.
The Hotel Under the Sand was nominated for a 2009 CYBILS.