Monday, June 27, 2016

Heartfelt Hero: The Tick-Tock Man (Gadgets and Gears) by Kirsten Hamilton


The sound was unsettling, and when you are with a Kennewickett, anything unsettling could spell disaster

My name is Noodles. It is my duty to keep Walter Kinnewickett, boy genius and scientist in training, as far from disasters as possible.

Which is why I found myself on a dark street corner in London.

Young Walter and his sometimes flying dachshund Noodles are in London with Wally's older sister Rhodope, a dedicated photographer and ardent British Suffragette. Amid the crowd at the ladies' march, Wally is singled out by a strange ragamuffin boy, Dobbin Winckles, equipped with what appears to be a gasoline powered, gyroscope-equipped monowheel. But before keen inventor Wally can study the machine in full, he notices a strange ticking sound. Then Dobbin delivers a sudden warning.

"Run, Kinnewickett," he whispered. "Leave London. Tick-Tock is out to nab you! He'll kill me if 'e knows I warned you."

But safe back in Rho's lodgings, Wally soon receives an urgent note from Dobbin, begging him to meet him late at night.


Come to the Courtyard behind Chopin's Pub at midnight. It is a matter of life or death!"

Wally and Noodles learn that Dobbin's tiny sister Briney has a mechanical heart which must be rewound by a key now in the hands of the nefarious Tick-Tock, who the distressed Dobbins confides, has gone missing.

And soon Wally Kinnewickett, boy inventor extraordinaire and detector of evil geniuses worldwide, is off on a new case. Engaging the assistance of his friend, Sherlock Holmes, he and Noodles are off on a chase through the dark and dangerous sewers and steam tunnels beneath London in pursuit of Tick-Tock, master watchmaker and master criminal, reputedly equipped with a mechanical heart. No one, not Holmes nor Scotland Yard, knows who or what Tick-Tock is, but only that his metal heart gives off a tick-tock wherever he goes. With a nose-to-tail shiver Noodles realizes that he and Wally have already had a near encounter with Tick-Tock.

But there's nothing for it but that the inventive Wally and his intrepid dachshund head down into the dark underground below the foggy streets of London, dodging killer sewer swine (which Wally dispatches with pyrotechnic devices brought along for emergencies), and finding themselves allied with the infamous criminal Spring-Heeled Jack in the quest to capture Tick-Tock in time to save the, er, rundown and expiring Briney.

In her third book in series, Kersten Hamilton makes the most of late Victorian London as the setting for the forthcoming The Tick-Tock Man: Gadgets and Gears, Book 3 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Clarion, 2016), with fogbound streets and dark sewers, ravening subterranean boars, a giant mechanical creature, Cy (short for Cyborg), and plenty of the darkly inventive illustrations of James Hamilton portraying the steampunk science that has made the Gadgets and Gears books favorites of young middle reader science fiction fans.

Described by Kirkus Reviews as "Steampunk for the chapter book set," this unique series has plausible but eccentric inventions that presage those of later centuries, coupled with colorful characters and bizarre mysteries to be solved by the genius of Wally, who alone in his era intuits that steam has had its day and that the future belongs to electricity. As in the earlier books, which featured cameos by Teddy Roosevelt and Nicola Testa, Wally hangs out with one of the icons of the period, Sherlock Holmes. And as in the other books, this one is wittily narrated by Wally's wiener wonder dog Noodles, who is, in addition to his loyalty and courage, shares his extensive vocabulary freely (and often) with his readers.

Other books in the Gadgets and Gears series include The Mesmer Menace (Gadgets and Gears) and The Ire of Iron Claw: Gadgets and Gears, Book 2. (Read reviews here.)

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