cover image Clockwork


Philip Pullman. Arthur A. Levine Books, $14.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-590-12999-2

In this tightly wound tale by the author of The Golden Compass and Count Karlstein, clockmaking and clockmakers serve as metaphors for fiction and its practitioners. The quaint (and aptly named) German village of Glockenheim sets great store in its clockmaking tradition: each time an apprentice becomes master of his craft, he commemorates the occasion by adding a new figure to the town's great clock. On the eve of one of these celebrations, a delectably spooky train of events is set in motion when the novelist Fritz sets out to entertain the villagers with his most recent work: the tale of Prince Florian, the deceased local ruler's son, whose fate is linked to a brilliant clockmaker. Fritz's narrative is interrupted by the arrival of a cloaked man who appears to have sprung straight from the pages of his novel: the aforementioned craftsman, enigmatic Dr. Kalmenius of Schatzberg, who has come--or so it seems--to help the gloomy apprentice clockmaker Karl achieve an unearned triumph in the next day's ceremonies. Meanwhile, poor Florian--whose time has nearly run out--stumbles into Glockenheim and finds the innkeeper's sweet daughter Gretl, the one person capable of restoring true life to the mechanical prince. In signature Pullman style, each character gets his or her just deserts with a fairy-tale ending that pays fitting and playful tribute to the story's twin obsessions: ""So they both lived happily ever after; and that was how they all wound up."" Gore's haunting black-and-white drawings both dramatize key events and reveal something of the characters' psyches. His visual artistry coupled with the luxurious design of this hand-sized volume makes this a tale to return to time after time. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)