Review – Home of the Cuckoo Clock

‘There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple too. And up in the nursery, an absurd little bird is popping up to say, “Cuckoo, cuckoo!”’

So marks the passing of time as decreed by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Time, we often complain about its restraints and resist its ravages but to ignore it completely results in chaos. At least it does for the village of Schoenwald in Home of the Cuckoo Clock.

Home of the Cuckoo Clock is Robert Favretto’s first venture into the picture book world, one he makes with considerable assuredness and aptitude along with illustrator, David Eustace. Together they navigate the difficult yet supreme landscape of telling stories in pictures against the stunning backdrop of Germany’s Black Forest region.

Schoenwald is caught in a peculiar metaphysical time warp, in other words, frozen in time. It’s not a bad thing ignoring the passing of time however complete deprivation of any time keeping results in some devastating situations for the villagers: children are late for school, the shops do not open on time, and cows are not milked. The problem? No clocks.

Fortunately, for Schoenwald, a striped visitor, nature’s timekeeper, the cuckoo, decides to lend a hand. With his regular calls morning and night, the townsfolk rejoice as calm and order is restored. Guided by the cuckoo’s clockwork uniformity, everything runs smoothly until one dreadful night when he is blown out of their lives by a terrible storm. Without the cuckoo to keep time for them, the townsfolk quickly descend into chaos again.

However tucked away in a dusty room is a wise man named Franz whose erstwhile observations of the cuckoo have given him an idea. His idea leads to the construction of a beautiful miniature wooden chalet to house a mechanical wooden bird to keep an hourly call for the villagers. Thus, the legend of the first Black Forest Cuckoo clock is created and time can never be forgotten again.

Favretto’s fanciful interpretation of one of the many fables that surrounds the origins of the cuckoo clock resounds with a timbre that is both solid and pleasing. His text chimes with charm, shepherding young readers through a truly joyful story.

It is easy to believe we are deep in the heart of the Black Forest thanks to Eustace’s magnificent full-page colour spreads. No page is spared from his captivating blend of line drawings, watercolours and digital enhancement. There’s an element of collage as well for each of the villagers assumes an almost more real than real appearance through use of real look facial features. A little uncanny perhaps, but effective nevertheless at portraying the slightly left of centre eccentricity of this tale. Keep an eye out for the cuckoo eggs secreted within each scene, as well.

Home of the Cuckoo Clock is a picture book that entertains and fascinates and is a magical fitting addition to the legend of one of my favourite pieces of horology.

Suitable for four year olds and above.

Ford Street Publishing 2016

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Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books. Her junior novel, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? debuted in 2012. The Fix-It Man is her first published picture book with EK Books in 2017. Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker and semi-professional chook wrangler. She believes picture books are food for the soul and should be consumed at least 10 times a week.