hardcover, published by David Fickling Books, 2008.
I can think of no better book to kick off my first post than The Toymaker, by Jeremy de Quidt. I first came across it in the children's book section of the University of Melbourne Library (oft visited when I really should have been rummaging about trying to find books that I could quote to support my otherwise crappy arguments about post-structuralist literary theory).
It was the cover that drew me in - I had never heard of the book but I thought, that book looks like a classic. And I truly hope that time may prove me right, because this is a gorgeous book, with just the right mix of old-fashioned story-telling and heartbreakingly beautiful concept that should see it achieve 'classic' status. The story drew me in from the get go and I've rarely stopped thinking about it since.
This is the concept of The Toymaker: What good is a toy that will wind down? What if you could put a heart in one? A real heart. One that beat and beat and didn’t stop. What couldn’t you do if you could make a toy like that? What follows is a story of fabulous, gothic-inspired characters, a chase/pursuit big on menace and tension and some truly dark, atmospheric moments. But what I loved was the exquisiteness of this book - the innovation, the sinister motivations, the conviction of the story-telling and authorial voice.
The opening chapter is a masterful example of inviting the reader into the story, inviting them to be a part of it, invest in it. And it moves swiftly on from there, with just the right amount of moments where you have to go back and read passages of prose because of the clarity they provide.
The Toymaker has a very gothic tone, some quite scary/violent moments and some graphic descriptions. It may not be suitable for all children. But it is a stunning book, beautifully produced, with a final revelation worth sticking around for.
"Even little dolls with sparrows' hearts sometimes remember they were sparrows once."