Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth (Lisa Nicol, Puffin)
Not 10 pages after inheriting his grandfather’s ostensibly magical shoeshine kit, Vincent is scouted to shine shoes at the Grandest Hotel on Earth—a job that entails far more than it initially appears, in a place where even the most outlandish dreams can be realised. What sets Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth apart from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has a comparable setting in Willy Wonka’s factory, is the sophistication and complexity Lisa Nicol brings to Vincent’s home life. Vincent’s brother appears to be severely autistic, and the prickly family dynamics this engenders are drawn with a deft touch and sympathetic eye. Vincent’s struggle to get his emotional needs met in a family whose orbit has dramatically shifted is entirely believable. This brings a profound sense of reality to a novel that is at all other times overflowing with whimsy, invention and silliness. It is difficult not to admire a book that asks children to sit for a moment inside of uncomfortable and conflicting emotions. That it manages to do so within a mise en scène so alive with magic and wonder makes Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth simply impossible to resist. This is a charming and surprisingly moving delight for readers aged eight and older seeking more of Nevermoor’s capriciousness, with all the sensitivity of Kate DiCamillo’s best.
Phil Lesnie is a children’s illustrator and a bookseller at Kinokuniya, Sydney