Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: The Clockwork Three

Back when I reviewed Time Snatchers and The Forbidden Library, I mentioned that there were a few titles on the jfiction shelf of the library where I work that had caught my attention. The Clockwork Three is the third and last book that I checked out after a quick glance through the jfiction shelf.

The Clockwork Three takes place in the late 19th century, in a fictional coastal town in America. The story follows three young kids, each facing their own difficult situations. The first person you meet is Giuseppe, a young Italian kid who was sold off by his uncle to a patron in America after the death of his parents. He works on the corners of the city, playing an old fiddle in order to make enough to eat for the day. On one fateful day, he finds a green violin and it changes his luck forever.

Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker who was bought by his master from an orphanage where he was abandoned by his mother. Frederick has always had a knack for fixing things and he really wants to earn the title of journeyman, which will mean that he will be recognized as a clockmaker by the guild and he can open his own shop. In his ambition, he has decided to start making a clockwork man and it's as he is making this that he meets Giuseppe and Hannah. Hannah of course, is the third main character in the book. She is a maid in a hotel and serves as the main provider for her family after her father had a stroke leaving him unable to speak or walk. Hannah is a very smart girl and loves to learn but must work at the hotel to make sure her family has enough to buy food and pay rent. One day, she overhears her boss and the head maid speaking about a treasure hidden in the hotel. When her father takes a turn for the worse, Hannah determines that she must find the treasure to help pay for the medical costs no matter what.

These three very different children with different worries and problems come together to help fix the problems they each face. At the center of everything are the 3 things all the kids want most: a green violin that will buy a passage back to Italy, to complete the clockwork man, and to find the treasure hidden in the hotel.

I will be honest, I did not feel like I was reading a book aimed at middle schoolers. Sure, the vocabulary was pretty standard, but the plot was extremely intricate with a lot of detail and a lot of character development. To be honest, I'm not sure it was have captured my attention as a kid because it took a while to get from the time we actually meet each kid, to the point in which they're actually working together as friends. I would say a good 2/3 of the book goes by without each one knowing the other two all that well. Of course, they have encountered each other and the only one that knows the other two by name is Frederick (having met Giuseppe when he saved him in a street brawl and Hannah when he asked her for directions on the street). Hannah and Giuseppe have seen each other in passing, but haven't formally met. So it does take a while to get to the whole point of the story which of course, centers around the clockwork man.

The clockwork man is clearly a symbol for how empty one can be without a heart. It's only after a heart is inserted and the clockwork man comes fully to life, that the three kids realize they can really help each other no matter how dire the circumstances. The clockwork man consistently says, "Something is wrong" after the heart is added to his body as, even though he is fully functional, he perceives something new and sees it as wrong immediately. However, the something "extra" he feels is the need to understand and try to help those around him. After his "death" Frederick is strangely clam, despite this being what he always hoped for. He comes to realize that he did not open himself up to his master and instead closed his pain away. After opening up to his master about his feelings and the things he's done, Frederick feels a renewed vigor and quickly tries to think of ways to help his friends.

The green violin and the treasure also similarly serve as symbols for the kids themselves. Giuseppe learns that the violin itself was not who created the beautiful music, it was his own talent, shining through when he played for the sake of others. Hannah learns that a treasure does not have to have a monetary value and the some things are to precious to give up for money. Overall, it was definitely a heartfelt story and one that was intricate and well thought out. I definitely didn't hate it, but I didn't think it was quite as good as I imagined it to be. I would recommend it though,  as just a quick read, but probably more for a teen audience.


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