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Lord of the Nutcracker Men
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Lord of the Nutcracker Men

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  367 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Ten-year-old Johnny eagerly plays at war with the army of nutcracker soldiers his toymaker father whittles for him. He demolishes imaginary foes. But in 1914 Germany looms as the real enemy of Europe, and all too soon Johnny’s father is swept up in the war to end all wars. He proudly enlists with his British countrymen to fight at the front in France. The war, though, is ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Laurel Leaf (first published January 1st 2001)
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Jan 09, 2014 Jo rated it really liked it
This review is part of my Poppies & Prose feature. You can find out more about it here.

“Below me were my wooden soldiers. The nutcracker men were hidden in the dark shadows of the tree and the wall, but the moonlight gleamed on my Frenchmen and my Tommies…The guns in France pounded away with their faint little thunder, and I thought that my real dad would be just like my model, wide awake, watching the sky.”

This was one of those rare, wonderful books that you read without knowing anything
Aug 14, 2008 Art rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Currently reading.
What an interesting way to look at the World War I.
From the homefront of a young man whose father goes to war.
and the people he interacts with.

The author compares WWI w/Homer's "Illiad". What a comparsion.
He also discusses a British poet w/"might had deserted" and gave reference to his poetry.
Book review:
Finished my second sad book this month. One of my first historical fiction books which I enjoyed greatly. Quaint and sophisticated. Well written and I now want to read more by Iain Lawrence. I give this book 4/5 to 5/5 very memorable and interesting from melancholy perspectives.
Aug 13, 2011 Mimi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: older-children
This is a great book to share with middle schoolers when you want to teach your kids about World War I or just war in general. The main character is a boy, perhaps 10 or 12 years old. His father is a gentle toy maker who proudly goes out to war to fight for his country. The boy, Johnny, is sent to live with his aunt in the country, because London is too dangerous a target. Johnny's mother goes to work in the factory to help the war effort. He receives letters from both of his parents, and his ...more
Richard Ward
Dec 14, 2014 Richard Ward rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Children; fans of historical fiction for children; folks who hate war.
A Christmas book for preteens, I think. During the early months of World War I, a boy is sent to live with his aunt in Kent. His father has enlisted and is in the trenches, while the boy's mother works in a munitions plant. Most of the book's 21 chapters begin with a letter from Dad telling Son about the horrors of war. Dad is a toymaker by profession, and he sends Son a handmade toy soldier with each letter. Son plays war with his toys, mostly alone. Like we all do as children, he allows his ...more
Arda Y
May 04, 2015 Arda Y rated it it was amazing
The book Lord of the Nutcracker Men is about a ten-year old boy named Johnny who plays war with his army of nutcracker men his toymaker dad makes. But in 1914, the Germans starts war in Europe, and Johnny's dad enlists to fight in the front in France. Letters arrive from Johnny's dad that tell about the things going on in the front and he carves soldiers that encloses the letter. Every time Johnny gets a new wooden soldier and he continues the war he is having with the Huns,Tommies, and ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Jul 22, 2012 Jo Oehrlein rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwi
The piece of historical fiction is a story of the British homefront during the first months of World War I. The principal figures are a young boy (maybe 12?) and his father. His father was a toy maker; now he’s a soldier in the war. The boy is sent to the country to live with his aunt, while his mother moves to work in a weapons factory. Much of the story is in letters from the boy’s dad. The boy spends much of his time playing with toy soldiers, many of which are carved by his dad. At first all ...more
Benji Martin
Dec 13, 2013 Benji Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was searching the catalog for some Nutcracker picture books, and came across this novel. It seemed interesting, so I gave it a try, and I have to say, it's really good. There wasn't much that I found fault with at all. It's just a good story about growing up and how the realities of war can shape a young mind. I really enjoyed reading it.
Karen L.
Jan 21, 2008 Karen L. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: boys, 10 and up
About a 10 year old boy from England who's father goes off to fight in WW1. Much of the story is told through the fathers letters to young Johnny. In each letter the father sends a hand carved wooden soldier. There is something mysterious to Johnny about these soldiers.
Sarah Mayor Cox
One of my fave war books of all time - Iain Lawrence so cleverly uses the protagonist's wooden soldier as a symbol for what is happening to Johnny's father in the trenches. So moving, I couldn't put it down.
Jun 19, 2014 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-i
Stunningly complex with storyline, family dynamics and emotion. One of my favorite YA Great War novels.
Dec 18, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
An interesting story that gave a child's insight to a terrible war. well worth the read.
Mary Foxe
Oct 09, 2014 Mary Foxe rated it it was amazing
A good introduction for middle school readers to World War I.
Dec 09, 2016 Caleb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2nd-quarter
Read only if you like history, violence and, fast paced books
Sep 09, 2016 Sandra rated it it was amazing
"Is dad a coward? I asked mum.
'Of course he's not," she said.
"Then he doesn't like to say this, but he's just not tall enough , Johnny." "Not tall enough?" He seemed like a giant to me."A dramatic account of a young protagonist and his giant-dad - who metaphorically shields the women and children of Germany.
Published in 2001 the Toy Maker of Germany is as compelling as the text Night .

A powerful collective perspective with anecdotal " Dearest Johnny" letters . Letters from father to son igni
Jan 30, 2012 Kev rated it liked it
Lord of the nutcracker is about a ten year old boy,johnny who lives in London England.As any other boy would want to do johnny plays with his nutcracker soldiers his toy maker father makes for him.but in 1914 , Britain is at war with Germany which is the beginning of world war one.He soon learns that his father is going to war in the trenches of France.
Every week letters are sent to johnny with a soldier his father curves in the trenches.He still adds it to his army of Huns, Tommies,and Frenchma
Jan 03, 2014 Casper rated it it was ok
Shelves: school-books
Lord Of The Nutcracker Men is a book about a ten year old quasi-refugee, Johnny. Living in WW1, this novel is a recount of all the events leading up to Christmas.
To be short: I didn't like it.
I read it in class, and I ended up stopping reading halfway through in favour of writing short stories (only God knows if the teacher let me because of how bored I must have looked). I found it lacking - the vocabulary was so simple I would have expected to read it in primary school, but the subject of the
Miss Amanda
gr 5-8 205pgs

WWI, England. 10 year old Johnny loves the nutcracker men that his father, a toy maker, creates for him. When war breaks out, Johnny is confused by his father sudden dislike of their German neighbors, but is excited by all the war preparations. His father continues to add to his army until Johnny has enough French and English soldiers to fight the German nutcrackers. As the war continues, Johnny is sent to live with his aunt, his mother goes to work in an arsenal and his father join
Candy Wood
Johnny, the narrator, is ten in 1914, and readers his age could learn a valuable perspective on war from his story. It takes him a long time to understand what's going on: he doesn't know why neighbors with German names are leaving London, he thinks it's great when the height requirements for soldiers are lowered so that his father can join up, and he sees war as a game, just like the ones he plays with toy soldiers his father made for him. He's even excited at the prospect of Zeppelin raids ...more
Apr 09, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence
Dell-Laurel Leaf, 2003, 6 discs (6.5 hrs), $5.99
YA Novel Adventure/War
ISBN: 1402523173

This is the story of 10-year-old Johnny Briggs, but it is also the story of his father, James, a British toymaker who volunteers to fight the Germans during WWI. For safety’s sake, Johnny leaves London to live with his aunt in the British countryside. His father carves toy soldiers to pass the time between battles while crouched in the trenches of France and sends them
Becky Greer
Jul 15, 2016 Becky Greer rated it really liked it
This book was a little slow to get started. At first, I thought this was a book about the holocaust, but, instead, is a book about the First World War. It is told from the perspective of ten-year old boy, Johnny, whose father is a toy maker and leaves with the British army to fight in the trenches of France. Each chapter starts with a letter from the father and a toy soldier he carves while he is in the trenches. Johnny is sent to the country to live with his aunt for safety. Johnny pretends to ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
I got this book several years ago. I think I got it because it was on the clearance rack of Half Price books and I was trying to build up my class library. I really haven't many historical fiction books and even fewer books about WWI.

I was unable to relate to Johnny. It's probably my age but I related more to his teacher and even his mother. Like Mr. Tuttle, I grow roses although I have not reached the point where I wish to breed them. And I found the notes about Johnny's mother having yellow-st
Jul 27, 2010 Lauren rated it did not like it
This was the first book that I ever stopped in the middle of. This was probably due to the fact that I was in the third grade when I read it, but still.
5 years later, I still have no desire to pick up this book. All I remember was little 8 year old me just being terrified (not good terrified. Baaaaaaaaaaad terrified.) of turning the page. Silly, silly, scared-for-life Lo.
Of course, I have undoubtedly read scarier books, but i just don't want to go through that again.
So, you can take
Sep 28, 2014 Shelley rated it really liked it
Shelves: youth, historical, 2014
Ten year old Johnny's father heads off to fight in WW1, and sends him hand carved soldiers that Johnny begins to suspect can control the war. This took me awhile to get into, but it is the clearest novel of war for children I have ever read. Absolutely heartbreaking and unflinching, real and true, almost too much. Absolutely a book to share now, with the 100th anniversary and our own continuing wars. One thing that I had never considered was how close the men fighting in France were to their ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Ken rated it it was amazing
Ten year old Johnny is sent to live with his aunt in a small village after his toy-maker father volunteers for the British army in WWI and his mother begins work at a munitions plant.

The boy amasses armies of toy soldiers that are made by his father who adds subsequent soldiers in letters from the front line trenches.

As the play battles that Johnny enacts with his toy soldiers became hauntingly prophetic, his view of the war begins to change.

A very strong story!

5 STARS, favorited
Neill Smith
Aug 08, 2011 Neill Smith rated it it was amazing
Johnny’s dad is fighting in WWI in the trenches in France. Accompanying his letters home are toy soldiers he carves. As Johnny fights his own mock battles with the toy soldiers it seems that the events he reenacts with his soldiers mirror the events that are happening to his father in the trenches. The events happening around him in England and the effect on his family and neighbours represent the horror and ugliness of war.
Jan 09, 2014 Crabbygirl rated it really liked it
read alongside my son for our WW1 chapters of history, i really enjoyed this tale set in england that neatly showed the ravages of war through the use of toys, some mud, and an active imagination. the christmas truce was also a nice touch.
written in 2001, it's nice to know that relevant, engaging historical fiction is still being written for the younger crowd.
Mar 05, 2011 A. rated it really liked it
This is another beautifully told, well written war novel. I think this one is more appropriate for an audience of children, but I would suggest it be read with an adult. There are some heavy war themes (obviously...) and I would want to discuss those with my child if they were reading it.

I also read this book originally as an assignment for my Children's Literature class.
Karen Bisschop
Nov 28, 2014 Karen Bisschop rated it really liked it
Shelves: tween-reads
In this anniversary year of the beginning of WWI, this book is an excellent insight into the experience of a child whose father has gone to fight in the trenches. Explores issues of "just war," PTSD, and national loyalties. Truthful in its depiction of the war, it also offered hope for restoration among families, communities and nations. It made for a great discussion with both kids and parents.
Feb 07, 2015 Renaissance rated it it was ok
Was not sure of reading this because the same author wrote ghost boy which I detested. The book was okay, I liked when the boy got letters and the soldiers from his father. I felt like there wasn't much of a real plot and it was all over the place. I liked the relation between the Illiad and the war.
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