LORD OF THE NUTCRACKER MEN by Iain Lawrence
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LORD OF THE NUTCRACKER MEN

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1914, Johnny Briggs’s father marches off to WWI with the promise that he will be home by Christmas. When his mother joins the war effort as a factory worker, Johnny is sent to live with his maiden aunt: a good woman, but practical and humorless. Johnny’s father, a toymaker, sends him frequent letters from the trenches, each accompanied by a hand-carved soldier to populate his toy army. But the letters and the wooden figures gradually alter . . . from humorous, to sad, to grotesque. Johnny fears that the small figures mirror his father’s own nightmarish transformation in the trenches and that his own innocent game of toy soldiers can have actual effects on events in France. Subplots involving Johnny’s vandalism of the rose garden of a respected teacher, and a deserter who is too ashamed to face his own father add further emotional weight and complexity to Johnny’s situation as the horrors of an adult world at war penetrate his childhood innocence. The well-realized English village setting during the fall and winter of 1912 is bleak, and the backyard in which Johnny ranges his toy soldiers is as muddy as the frontline. Johnny’s studies of the Iliad may be beyond some young readers. However, they will understand the stated parallels of a world in which war is a game for the gods (much as his game with his soldiers) and a world in which wars may pause but never stop (as in the well-documented 1914 Christmas truce). Thoroughness of research is indicated in a detailed author’s note. A minor false note is that Johnny, a bright 11-year-old, needs to have his father’s letters read to him, but that can be forgiven in an otherwise original piece of historical fiction in which big themes are hauntingly conveyed through gripping personal story and eerie symbolism. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-385-72924-3
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2001




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