10/7/19

The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper

If you are a fantasy fan who loves quirky small museums with collections of oddities, you will love The Hippo at the End of the Hall, by Helen Cooper (first published in the UK in 2017, now out in the US from Candlewick, Oct 2019).

Ben's invitation to the Gee Museum was delivered by bees.  He'd never heard of the place before, but despite his mother's reservations about letting him go there on his own (reservations which seem, for reasons, to be a bit much, even taking into account the fact that Ben's only ten)  he went...There, in its rooms full of taxidermidied creatures, other natural history collections, a glass bee hive, and clocks and other treasures collected by the Gee family from around the world years ago, he found magic, and the truth about his father, who died many years ago while off on an expedition of his own.

Ben also found danger, one of my personal least favorite types of danger--the unscrupulous developer, in this case paired with the unscrupulous director of a larger, splashier museum.

With help from the creatures who make the Gee museum their home (including the titular hippo), Ben is determined to find a way to save the museum.  But not all the magic in the museum is necessarily friendly.....

The museum and its magic are lovely, and the danger is real and gripping, without making me squirmisly check the ending, Ben is a great character to cheer for, and even the grown-ups (his mother and the elderly director of the museum) have useful parts to play in saving the day.  Generously sprinkled with illustrations by the author, this is one of the best museum visits I've had in ages!  A delightful read, that reminds me lots of the classic middle grade British fantasy I loved as a child back in the 20th century.....

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher.

(nb:  The Hippo at the End of the Hall is eligible for this year's Cybils Awards, but hasn't yet been nominated....so if you haven't made your elementary/middle grade speculative fiction pick yet, do keep it in mind!)

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