Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Clockwork Three

Every school year, twelve fiction titles are nominated for Missouri's Mark Twain Readers Award. These novels are meant to appeal to kids in the fourth through sixth grades, and the topics and genres always run the gamut--there's something to appeal to every Missouri reader in that age range! Many, many kids come to the library looking specifically for Mark Twain books, so I make a point of familiarizing myself with all of them. I just started in on the 2012-2013 nominated titles. First on my list: the audiobook version of Matthew J. Kirby's The Clockwork Three.

The Clockwork Three tells the story of three children in an unnamed, steampunk American city. Giuseppe is originally from Italy but, after his parents' death and his sale to a not-so-nice guy who exploits children in the New World, he has been slaving away as a street musician for over half his life. When he finds a green violin washed up near the docks, he starts to think that escaping his busker life and returning to Italia might be a possibility. Then there's Frederick, a precocious clockmaker's apprentice. He is obsessed with clockwork automatons and perfecting his secret creation for the clockmakers guild, but he routinely shoves aside the lingering curiosity and hurt he feels regarding his becoming an orphan. Lastly there is Hannah, a bright young girl who has been forced to get a job as a hotel maid after her father's sudden and drastic illness. Hannah overhears talk of a fortune hidden in the hotel, and she sets her sights on finding it in an effort to alleviate the financial and mental strains on her mother, father, and twin sisters.

The chapters rotate through focusing on each of the three protagonists, and eventually their storylines intersect as the three children become friends. They've all been loners of sorts, but they develop fondnesses for one another and realize that together they may be able to meet each of their goals. Together the clockwork three dash through city streets, brave the wild park of the city, encounter quite a few enemies who have ill intentions toward them, and embark on a series of adventures that tests their mettle beyond anything they had expected.

The action of the story is evenly-paced and keeps one's attention, and the reader (Marc Thompson) performs a variety of strong voices to further illuminate the story. The audiobook is nearly twelve hours long, so it's a large chunk of a story--but there is more than enough intrigue and character to keep listeners engaged. I enjoyed hearing The Clockwork Three develop, and I would definitely recommend the audiobook to school-age kids looking for something for long car rides during upcoming summer vacations. The 2012-2013 Mark Twain Readers Award nominees are certainly off to a good start.

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