Thursday, February 24, 2011

An unexpected treasure

Whenever we're in Utah there are certain stores we nearly always go to, almost like habit. And when we were up there for Thanksgiving we stopped by the downtown Deseret Book store. Of course, the kids feel entitled to pick something since we've always encouraged reading and Maddie made a bit of a fuss over a book called The Clockwork Three in the new releases section. I talked her into choosing something else, however, because I knew I'd seen it on the Amazon Vine newsletter, so I was able to get an advance reader copy (ARC) instead. And the book turned out to be quite an unexpected little treasure.

The Clockwork ThreeGuiseppe spends his days as a busker playing violin on the street corners and hoping to earn enough money for the meager food and shelter provided by his evil padrone, Stephano. But when he finds a beautiful green violin in the washed up debris from a shipwreck he begins to dream that there might be a way to earn enough to return to his brother and sister in Italy. Hannah works as a maid in a beautiful downtown hotel, waiting on and cleaning up after the wealthy guests whose lives are far removed from her plight as the only means of support for her family after her father suffered a stroke. She learns of a treasure hidden by a former guest, and hopes to find it and save her family from the streets. And Frederick works as an apprentice clockmaker for Master Branch, who saved him from a workhouse/orphanage. He is perhaps most comfortable but he burns with a desire to prove himself and works secretly on a clockwork automaton in the form of a man in the hope it will help him make journeyman, allowing him to open his own shop. But all three of their paths eventually cross and they join to help each other in this story with a basis in real historical events of 1870s New York.

After Maddie and I started reading it together I realized that it's a bit over her head - more on a reading level for Kate (I think it's recommended for grades 5-8, which seems appropriate). But once I began reading it on my own I couldn't put it down. The story starts a bit slow as it rotates among the three children who are seemingly unconnected to one another, but soon enough you're easily drawn into their lives and the troubles they face.

But while the story is good and will certainly appeal strongly to kids, it's Matthew Kirby's writing that I found especially captivating. His words have a magical color and sound to them that breathes life into the story, leaving even adults in the grip of a tale they can't put down. (It's books and writers like this that make me think that YA fiction is too often underrated and underappreciated.) Mr. Kirby is a very talented writer and I look forward to more from him (there were maybe a few loose ends too, making me hope there might be room for more from this story). Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment