The Cabinet of Wonders–The Kronos Chronicles #1 (2008)
by Marie Rutkoski
Suggested age range: 10 and up (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 258 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Source: Audiobook from Library
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
The Book: The Prince has stolen Petra’s father’s eyes! Peter Kronos returns home blind, after a trip to Prague to help the prince build an amazing clock at Salamander Castle. Petra’s father can move metal with his mind, but he is not able to prevent the Prince from betraying him. When Petra realizes that her father can do nothing to win back his eyes, she takes matters into her own hands and sets out to Prague, secretly, with her tin spider, Astrophil. In the city, Petra meets gypsies, who just might be able to help her with her task, and she takes employment as a servant in the castle, in hopes of stealing her father’s eyes back. As the book progresses, her adventures only increase, and the more she learns about the possibilities of what the clock her father began building can do, the more she is aware she must stop the Prince from completing it.
Spirituality in The Cabinet of Wonders: Petra’s love for her father and her sense of justice represent the motivating force behind her stealing away to Prague, without telling her family, in order to steal back her father’s eyes. When love for family drives us to do something, it sometimes helps us to believe that anything is possible. Though others tell Petra that what she is attempting to accomplish is impossible, she perseveres. She also reflects a heart that is compassionate and wants to see wrong made right.
Exploring this Book with Readers: As I listened to the story via audiobook, I couldn’t help but think of a handful of response activities for the book. There are multiple ways to respond to this book through the arts. Young readers could create short skits of favorite scenes in the book by acting them out themselves, or by making a puppet show. The story has many humorous moments, so dramatic skits would probably get reading groups or classes laughing as well! I have watched middle school students have the time of their lives with these kinds of skits, and it’s fun! Petra has Astrophil as a sidekick, but what metal insect or animal might readers pick, if they had a choice? Artwork featuring these wished for sidekicks could be a great addition to any wall, and readers could then pick out three or four adjectives to describe the characteristics of these “helpers.”
The Final Word: The audiobook version of this story is fabulous! If you listen to audiobooks in the car or elsewhere, I would highly recommend checking this out from the library. I enjoyed a fantastic drive from Northern California up to Portland listening to the first of the Kronos Chronicles. Rutkoski includes an assortment of interesting and quirky characters, and I always enjoyed Astrophil’s antics. The wonders of magic, friendship, and love for family are all explored within this fantasy. I loved this story and am looking forward to the second and third installments.