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Blackwood, Gary. Curiosity.

(a) 5Q * 4P * M * J

Blackwood, Gary. Curiosity. Dial/Penguin, 2014. 320p. $16.99. 978-0-803-73024-6.

Twelve-year-old chess prodigy Rufus is uprooted from his life in the parsonage when his father is thrown into debtors' prison. Rufus winds up in the House of Refuge until he is taken into the employ of Maelzel, a corrupt man who runs a curiosity show. Maelzel owns the Turk, an automaton chess master who has dazzled audiences across Europe and America with his mysterious ability to beat human opponents. Soon Rufus learns the secret because his job is to hide inside the cramped cabinet beneath the Turk, move the clockwork parts, and bring the automaton to life. As Rufus fights Maelzel for his compensation, sneaks off to visit his father, and wonders about the identity of the mysterious woman in black who seems to be following him, his connection to the Turk grows. All the while, Rufus works to keep up the ruse so he has a place where he belongs.

The museum and curiosity show setting--as well as the cameo appearances by Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum--make this historical novel a delight. The 1835 time period feels authentic, and the Turk himself is a genuine character. Chess is a complex game, and Blackwood does a good job keeping the details accurate yet brief. Fans of the automatons and clockwork gears in Brian Selznik's The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007/VOYA February 2007) will enjoy this novel.--Deena Viviani.

After his father goes to debtors' prison, Rufus, a twelve-year-old chess prodigy, eagerly accepts a job offered by a dubious showman to operate the Turk, the celebrated automaton chess player. Because of the secret nature of his job, Rufus is kept under lock and key. How will Rufus escape the fate of remaining a helpless pawn and take control of his life? Readers who enjoy mystery, suspense, and chess will be curious about Curiosity. 4Q, 4P.--Maia Raynor, Teen Reviewer.

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Author:Viviani, Deena; Raynor, Maia
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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