The Clockwork Three startles with Dickensonian plot and characters; however, the resemblance ends here, for Mr. Kirby has written a children’s novel that appeals as much to adults as children, as all children’s classics do. With a narrative that runs deep like a river, carving down gullies and plunging into ravines and gullies, this book sparkles on its way to our souls.
Giuseppe, stolen from his parents and home in Italy, taken to America and sold, plays an old violin, busking for a violent padrone named Stephano, who works his boys to the bone. When they don’t make enough money for the day at their busking, he brutally beats them or places them in a cellar run rampant with rats that bite and terrorize the young boys. When Giuseppe happens by the New England docks and finds a beautiful green violin lying among the cargo of a shipwrecked harbor, he knows instantly that something magical has occurred. When he plays this green violin, every note rings true and music flows from his fingers into the curling dusk, as coins fill his upturned cap from mesmerized passers-by. They too recognize the hint of magic in the aspiring notes lifting them up from their dreary lives. Giuseppe makes twice his usual haul, and decides to hide the green violin and half of the money he earns each day in a cemetery grotto-tomb, so that he can gain the $40.00 it will cost to buy passage home to Italy and his family. He helps a younger child by giving him some of his money and for his trouble; Stephano puts him in the rat cellar. When Giuseppe realizes that he is no longer afraid of the rats, he realizes that he is stronger than Stephano – but he must make his way out of this slavery.
Frederick, jailed in the horrible orphanage where Mrs. Treeless tortures the children, finds his luck when Master Branch takes him on as a clock-work apprentice. Master Branch is patient and caring to Frederick, and Frederick works hard to become the only child to become journeyman at Master Branch’s shop. His ingenuity and imagination help him to create a tin man and his dream to become a journeyman in the Guild seems almost possible …until….
Hannah works as a housemaid to support her parents and siblings. Her father, a master stonemason struck with apoplexy, can no longer work; in fact he lies in bed barely alive. Hannah has had to leave school, a place that she loves, and secures a job under a nasty housekeeper, Miss Wool. She barely survives, until she meets one of the occupants of the hotel, Madame Pomeroy and Yakov, her manservant. Madame Pomeroy is magical and mysterious, and Hannah begins to believe that her life has changed. When she overhears Miss Wool and Mr. Grumholdt talk of a treasure hidden in the upstairs rooms where Mrs. Pomeroy resides, she decides to find the treasure …but how?
As the three children meet and become friends, they fight poverty, violence, their difficult situations and mistrust of everyone to form an alliance to realize all of their dreams.
A novel pressed with daring and joy, sadness and beauty, the friendship of the three children creates a fusion of family. As they all learn to trust and love – and to accept help – they evolve into a partnership as cohesive as the gears of a fine clock.
Brilliantly written, entwined with defiance against impossible odds and the belief in beautiful dreams, The Clockwork Three allows Hannah, Frederick and Giuseppe to learn that dreams are a team effort. Tender, poignant, tough and gentle, this heart rending and uplifting story creates its own myth within its pages and then goes further. I had to review this book – I couldn’t put it down. If you buy your children (age range 4th grade) this year, buy The Clockwork Three. It spins and weaves and bobs its way to our hearts and we fall deeply in love with Hannah’s devotion, Giuseppe’s courage and lion heart, and Frederick’s ability to make dreams come true. Absolutely spellbinding. This novel creates its own soul – and then lives there.
The Clockwork Three is availble for purchase in bookstores around the country.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.
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