While Philip Pullman's greatest popularity is as a creator of novel-length magical realism for young adults, such as The Golden Compass, he continues to explore and stretch the limits of other children's and young adult genres. Clockwork is no exception. With its inspiration lying solidly in the German romantic tradition of E.T.A. Hoffmann and the Brothers Grimm, the story begins, as all good fairy tales do, with someone whose human weakness sets events inescapably in motion. As the townspeople of Glockenheim gather in the White Horse Tavern on the eve of the unveiling of a new figure for their great town clock, Karl, the clockmaker's apprentice, reveals to Fritz, a young storyteller, that he has not been able to construct the figure. A new clock figure is expected of all apprentices, and Karl is the first in hundreds of years to fail. Fritz, in his turn, has the beginnings of a new story to tell, and as it rolls off his tongue, its dark antagonist materializes and offers Karl his dearest wish. Not surprisingly, Karl's Faustian pact brings him destruction, but an innocent child is the deus ex machina that saves another child and the spirit of the town from seemingly ineluctable oblivion. With its eerie black-and-white illustrations by Leonid Gore and its happily-ever-after ending to some thrilling suspense, Clockwork is a fine fairy tale for younger children and a thought-provoking twist on the art of narrative for older ones. --Barrie Trinkle--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Elizabeth Enright is the author of many delightful books for children. Her books about the Melendys (The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, The There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze) gained a wide and enthusiastic audience and are available in Yearling editions.