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The Clockwork Ghost: York, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Clockwork Ghost: York, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Tweens solve puzzles, dodge villains in intriguing sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in an alternate version of New York, where some things are different and others very much the same, The Clockwork Ghost is packed with fascinating historical figures and lore that are part of our current reality, such as Ada Lovelace, mathematical wizard, inventor, and daughter of Lord Byron, and Thomas Jennings, noted African American abolitionist and also the inventor of dry cleaning. Also ciphers, codes, mathematical puzzles, and an antique, bejeweled Rubik's Cube with a few surprises.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, family, being smart and solving problems, looking out for your loved ones, coping with loss and change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tess, Theo, and Jaime are brainy 12-year-olds and good friends who appreciate and look out for one another. Some of the things they and other kds do -- like stealing a puzzle from a museum so they can solve it -- wouldn't normally be a good idea, but it's urgent. They have a lot of supportive adults in their lives, especially the twins' police officer mom and Jaime's capable grandmother, and Jaime's memories of his late mom, a scientist, are a big influence.

Violence

Lots of spiders, mechanical and otherwise, plus stone birds that come to terrifying life. Besides being generally creepy and mean, villains pretty much threaten anyone who stands in the way of their greed. Worse, they engineer the kidnapping and unknown fate of Tess' therapy cat, throwing her into a tailspin of anxiety and misery. Also kidnapped and taken to a creepy lab, Karl, the pet raccoon of returning character Cricket. One scene, set in a graveyard, involves digging up the area around the grave of a once-famed musician. Another involves a creepy scientist and his creepier lab.

Sex
Language

Occasional mention of dog pee.

Consumerism

Occasional mentions of products and pop culture icons from our world for scene setting, e.g. SpongeBob Squarepants, Batman. Jaime tries to teach a parrot a Nas song.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Clockwork Ghost is the second installment in Laura Ruby's York series, set in the New York of an alternate world in which the technological innovations of the mysterious 19th century  Morningstarr twins shaped the city's future. Following the (literally) explosive conclusion of Book 1, tweens Tess, Theo, and Jaime are still determined to solve the cryptic puzzle the twins left behind, aided by clues that keep popping up (and driving them crazy) -- and get the legendary treasure (whatever it is) before the greedy villains and other bad guys do. Along the way there are creepy labs, nasty bad guys, scheming gun-toting bodyguards, and evil scientists kidnapping the beloved pets of our heroes for sinister purposes. There's a library's worth of history, especially around the 19th century and the Civil War, some of which introduces important African American figures  who may be new to the reader. Many kds will relate to the kids adjusting to being in new homes and seeing each other less often, and there's a lot about dealing with love, loss, and difficulty while still doing your best. There's lots for lovers of codes and puzzles, too.

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What's the story?

As THE CLOCKWORK GHOST opens, 12-year old twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and their BFF Jaime Cruz are dealing with quite a few adjustments in the wake of the explosion that destroyed their apartment building. The twins' family now lives with their aunt, and Jaime and his grandmother have reluctantly moved to an apartment in Hoboken. But they're still determined to solve the puzzles left behind by the legendary 19th-century Morningstarr twins, whose inventions form the infrastructure of this alternate New York. Before long, their quest takes them to an encoded message pointing to Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's math-wizard daughter, who may have known the Morningstarrs and has left behind a bejeweled silver puzzle like a Rubik's Cube with a few surprises of its own. Also, they find a lot about the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, and some unsung artists and inventors. Meanwhile, greedy villains have other plans, and their evil deeds include kidnapping kids' pets for creepy experiments.

Is it any good?

Laura Ruby delivers a relatable, complex installment of the York series, set in her alt-New York world of intriguing clockwork technology and also Nas songs. As brainy, brown-skinned tweens Theo, Tess, and Jaime delve into codes and puzzles left behind by the 19th-century Morningstarr twins in a quest to find what may be a treasure, facing a lot of peril in the process, the story packs in a lot of detail about history, math, and interesting people. There's a lot about love, loss, and still loving -- with an ending that suggests exciting develo-mentsin Book 3.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories set in an alternate (but recognizable) version of our world like The Clockwork Ghost. What's the appeal? What can you do in that kind of story that you can't in stories set in the real world? How does the York series compare to other alternate worlds you've read about?

  • Do you like using codes to exchange messages with your friends? How does that come in handy? What might go wrong?

  • What do you know about the Underground Railroad? Have you studied it or visited any places that were once part of it?

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