Thursday, November 05, 2020

Newbery Winners: The Trumpeter of Krakow

Hi, Eric here again with one of my rare posts here. Yes, I'm still trying to read all of the Newbery Medal winners in order, and with The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly, we wrap up the 1920s with an exciting adventure of intrigue and mystery and all that stuff that makes for a pretty good story. Kelly had spent time in Poland not long after it was established following the Great War, and grew to love and appreciate the country and its people, which really shows in the book. He really brings medieval Krakow to life. Which is good, because the book's protagonist, Joseph Charnetski, has to learn about it, as his family have had to flee their village. His father hopes to stay with a cousin in the city, but he has been murdered and his estate seized, so the Chartenskis have no friends or resources to help them. But they save the life of a kindly alchemist who offers to help them, and finds not only a place to live, but also work, as the trumpeter who plays "the broken hymn", the Heynal, at the Church of Our Lady St. Mary every hour. While the job is primarily his father's, Joseph helps out and learns the Heynal himself, which becomes useful when those who are seeking out the Charnutski family and the incredible secret they are hiding come to Krakow. Through a secret code in his playing of the Heynal, Joseph is able to alert his friend, the alchemist's niece, who raises the alarm and helps save the family. It is not enough to stop the Great Fire of Krakow, but all ends up working out well in the end. It's an exciting, well-paced historical novel, and worth the effort to track it down. Yes, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a copy of the book to read was a bit of an adventure. Our local library was completely shut down, so I couldn't borrow their copy. I ordered an inexpensive used copy online, but the sent the wrong book! No problem, it was a book I wonted to read anyway, and they refunded my money, but I was still without the book to read. But by this time, the library was open again, at least for no-contact deliveries of reserved books, so I finally got the chance to read it. But interlibrary loan is still curtailed, and since they don't have the 1930 winner in their system, I may have to venture into the used book market again. Ah, but that will just have to wait for my next entry on this blog, most likely.