I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the cover of The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder pulled me right in with Big Ben prominently displayed and spooky shadows lurking around the edges. This funny, fast-paced middle grade fantasy opens with Emily Featherhaugh in a little bit of trouble. She’s been sent to her room after another argument with her embarrassing mother. Late that night, a mysterious visitor comes to her house. Shortly after, Emily’s mother leaves to try to help a family member in need. After not hearing from her mom for days, Emily receives a letter from her mom saying she is safe. As a night postman, Emily’s dad heads to work to try to trace where the letter came from. He, too, does not return.
She heads to her father’s office to see if they know where he is. On her way, she’s chased by a strange creature who is trying to capture her. She escapes into the night post and finds herself in Victorian London. The town has been frozen in time, always midnight, “to make a place where it could be night forever, where magic could survive, and we could all be safe.” The Midnight Hour, as it’s known, is frozen because of a magicked Big Ben. Emily soon finds out that both her parents are part of this secret world – maybe that’s why her mom never talks about her family. And the Night Post, where her dad actually works, is a special service that delivers only to this magical world.
Emily quickly determines her parents have been taken as part of a sinister plot, and she teams up with Constable-in-Training Postlewhite to save her parents, uncover the plot, and stay safe from all the evil creatures who are after her. Read and Trinder fabulously set up a portal fantasy about adventure, family, and not being afraid to ask for help. This story had me chuckling all the way through. Emily is very quirky and maybe a bit more like her mother than she realizes. The authors have set up an imaginative world that readers will enjoy. Magic, adventure, and a variety of creatures will appeal to all kinds of middle grade readers. This is the first installment of a series, and sets up that series nicely, while still giving a satisfying ending.