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BOOK REVIEWS, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade Readers


The Clockwork Three was recommended to me by a 4th Grader last year and I am glad to have finally gotten around to reading it!  It is a first novel by Mr. Kirby and it is extremely well-plotted.  It is the story of three children–Giuseppe, Frederick and Hannah–who begin the story as strangers to each other and gradually find their paths in life interwining.

It is interesting that the three lives evolve separately for almost two-thirds of the book.  There are brief encounters with each other, although none of the three are ever aware that those interactions will come to mean more at a later date–much like real life.  Giuseppe is a street musician, sold to a street thug who has several boys in his ’employ,’ but who dreams of returning to his brother and sister in Italy.  Hannah is a young girl forced to give up her education and her childhood when her father is paralyzed by a stroke and her family has no breadwinner; she works as a maid in the hotel her father helped to build.  Frederick was rescued from the abuse of an orphanage by a kind clockmaker and apprenticed to him but he cannot shake the nightmares of his years in the orphanage.

The three come together when they discover that the thing each of them desires most can only be achieved with the help of the other two.  There is excitement, suspense, a woman who communes with the spirits of the dead, a wild cougar named Mirabel, a green violin, the magic of music, a noble machine come to life and a dead man’s mysterious treasure all thrown into the mix.

Kirby guides the plot masterfully so that it comes to a satisfying conclusion, with a few little surprises along the way.  He ties up all loose ends yet still leaves some wonderfully mysterious secrets untold.  It is really a good story whose pace builds consistently from beginning to end.  When I finished the book I felt a renewed sense of appreciation for friends–and people in general.  This is a good independent read or could be a great shared bedtime story.  It might also be a fun read-aloud for 4th-6th grade, as it is definitely kid-based, easily understood and relevant to many personal and interpersonal ideas and issues regardless of the time in which it is set.


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