HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Three Toymakers
Author: Ursula Moray Williams
Illustrator: Shirley Hughes
Publisher: Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club, republished in 1972
ISBN-13: 978-0840761149 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0840761147 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0330233118 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0330233114 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Williams, Ursula Moray. The Three Toymakers (published in 1970 by Thomas Nelson Inc., Camden, NJ; republished in 1971 by Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club). In the Black Forest village of Drussl lives Peter Toymaker, who is asked by an orphan boy named Rudi to become his apprentice. Rudi brings his crippled sister Elsa, a seamstress, and five brothers Martin, Victor, Maurice, Hans, and Anders, to live with him in Drussl. Several years pass. Rudi becomes a toymaker and falls in love with a girl named Margaret. Martin and Victor become soldiers. Maurice becomes a blacksmith’s apprentice in a neighboring community. Hans becomes a law student. And little Anders seems to get into a lot of trouble. The King announces a contest for all toymakers in the kingdom with the prize of a thousand gold pieces. Old Peter makes a wonderful doll house, and Rudi is carving a marvelous music box. Rudi hopes to win it so that he can marry Margaret.
However, an evil toymaker named Malkin in the nearby village of Pils has created a life-like, talking, walking doll named Marta to enter in the contest. To keep Rudi and Peter from winning, he concocts a potion that will draw wolves to attack and kill them on their journey, and he secretly puts it in Rudi’s coat when he comes to buy clothes from Elsa for Marta. Will Rudi and Peter make it safely to the contest? What will happen to their toys? And who will win the prize? The Three Toymakers is a modern, almost fable-like, folk tale of good and evil that includes an adventure over some snowy mountains. There are a couple of references to drinking wine, but the book has a wonderfully written plot, full of twists and turns, with a sympathetic cast of characters. One of author Ursula Moray Williams’s best-known books is The Toymaker’s Daughter, and this is said to be a “prequel.”
Ursula Moray Williams (1911 – 2006) was an English children’s author of nearly seventy books for young people. Her classic stories often involved brave creatures who overcome trials and cruelty in the outside world before finding a loving home. She was greatly admired for her many acts of kindness and an instinctive Christian faith. I am a little confused about the dating of the books. One source said that The Three Toymakers was written after The Toymaker’s Daughter but tells the story of the adults in “the first book.” However, another source talks about the trilogy that began with The Three Toymakers and ends with The Toymaker’s Daughter, giving a date of 1946 for The Three Toymakers (though my copy gives a 1970 copyright date for the book), 1948 for Malkin’s Mountain, the middle book of the trilogy, and 1968 for The Toymaker’s Daughter. But it also mentions a 1935 book Anders and Marta. The confusion may be due to different publishing dates and titles in England and the United States. Regardless of all that, I enjoyed reading The Three Toymakers.