``Once upon a time,'' Stolz's fairy tale begins, in the classic style, and the magic transports the reader instantly to a village in the Black Forest. Erich grows up mistreated by Frau Goddhart who had ``kindly'' taken him in as an abandoned baby, to suit her public pose. The Goddharts fool everyone except the old clockmaker Ula; he befriends Erich, and the boy works as an apprentice to the craftsman. In time, Ula and Erich create a beautiful, intricately carved clock wth a real house for the bird that love brings to life in the course of this sweet story. The ending is unexpected but satisfying. Drawings by Johnson (who illustrated Stolz's captivating Quentin Corn complement the fantasy. Ages 7-12. (March)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6 Stolz tells a simple story in her own wry, distanced style, adding elements of fantasy to create a sort of fable. Set in the Black Forest of over a century ago, this is about Ula, an old and wise clockmaker, and Erich, a foundling who works with him as an apprentice at the reluctant consent of Frau Goddhart, his guardian whose kindness is more public than sincere. When Ula decides to make his last and finest clock, Erich works with him. When the clock is completed a miracle occurs: the carved bird inside comes alive, flying about the room and singing the 36 songs of the Black Forest birds. Shortly thereafter, Ula dies. Erich goes away, with a prediction from the Baron's daughter that he will become a great artist. The brief epilogue does not specifically confirm this, but tells of the clock existing today with the cuckoo singing its 36 songs with no one to hear them. Stolz' delicate ironies and precise writing style save her story from sentimentality, enabling it to teach an interesting and rigorous lesson about the liability of the self-involved to understand the true beauty of the world. Original, wise, and thoughtful. Christine Behrmann, New York Public Lib .