Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1952
Reexamining a classic Christmas tale
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Stefan Drosselmeyer has decided to run away after the death of his mother. He has been an apprentice to his toy maker father, but wants to be a journeyman to a different craftsman so that he can work some of the new clockworks into his toys. When a long lost cousin, Christian, shows up and Stefan's father is kidnapped by mice, Stefan decides to help Christian with his mission. In Boldavia, Christian created a huge advent calendar with clockwork figures set in the side of a mountain, but his digging disturbed the kingdom of the mice. The queen of the mice has bitten Princess Pirlipat, who has turned to wood. Christian was sent with the court astrologer, Samir, to find the krakatook nut, which will cure Pirlipat. Stefan manages to find one in an unlikely place, and the group sets off back to Boldavia, but Christian is killed. In the meantime, a seven headed son was born to the queen of the mice, and Ernst, an accomplished, multilingual rat, is engaged as their tutor. Stefan's father is being held in captivity by the mouse queen. Stefan manages to cure Pirlipat but manages to anger the queen, get bitten, and kill the queen in his fall. Can a trip back to Nuremburg find a cure for Stefan, and can the war between the Boldavian mice and humans be won by either side?
Good Points
While there are lots of picture books that cover the story of The Nutcracker, I can't think of any books for middle grade readers that do. The Toymaker's Apprentice expands on the tale and adds lots of interesting back story details in this engaging holiday fantasy.

Stefan's initial unwillingness to continue working with his father is an interesting start to the story, since he proceeds to try very hard to find his father. The descriptions of automata will be interesting to readers of Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Pullman's Clockwork, and the machinations of the mice will keep readers turning the pages to see if Stefan will be able to save not only his father but himself.

This is an adventure set in the Napoleonic Era, which is slightly before the Regency era. Lots of interesting period details about Nuremberg, apprentices, and clockworks. Steampunk aficionados might find enough inventions in this one to keep them happy. Also, even though the talking mice are sort of on the side of evil, Redwall fans might like this as well.
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