Ensiform's Reviews > The Trumpeter of Krakow

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
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May 11, 12

bookshelves: fiction, newbery, historical
Read in August, 2009

The 1929 Newbery winner, this novel is set in Poland, 1461. Joseph Charnetski, a fifteen-year-old, travels with his family to Krakow after their home and fields in the Ukraine were destroyed. The family befriends a wise scholar and goes to live in the house of an alchemist and his daughter. Joseph becomes a watchman in the Church of Our Lady Mary. In the tower there, he plays on the hour the Heynal, a theme that is traditionally broken off in mid-note out of respect for a brave Polish lad who was killed by an arrow while playing it as Tartars advanced. The family is shadowed and accosted several times by a mysterious rogue, who turns out to be a dreaded Ukranian warlord who originally drove them from their home and is out to steal a priceless treasure which, to Joseph’s surprise, his father is guarding for the king.

This is a fine historical adventure, written in a clear but highly literate style, full of drama and suspense. Krakow is also made central to the story, as Kelly lovingly details its various buildings and streets. Nor is this a story that could be transplanted to another time, as lesser historical tales can be; alchemy plays a great role in this book, as part of the drama stems from Kreutz, the alchemist, and his attempts to find the secret of transmuting base metals to gold. It’s fun to read, and the brisk pacing and suspense keep the pages turning – a perfect children’s adventure story.
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message 1: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein Thanks for an excellent review of a book I had never heard about ... but now it's on my ever-growing list.


Ensiform Thank you, Lew! It's part of my never-ending quest to read all the Newbery winners.


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