Summary and book reviews of Lord of The Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence

Lord of The Nutcracker Men

By Iain Lawrence

Lord of The Nutcracker Men
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: May 2003,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

Ten-year-old Johnny eagerly plays at war with the army of nutcracker soldiers his toymaker father whittles for him. He demolishes imaginary foes. But in 1914 Germany looms as the real enemy of Europe, and all too soon Johnny's father is swept up in the war to end all wars. He proudly enlists with his British countrymen to fight at the front in France. The war, though, is nothing like what any soldier or person at home expected.

The letters that arrive from Johnny's dad reveal the ugly realities of combat --- and the soldiers he carves and encloses begin to bear its scars. Still, Johnny adds these soldiers to his armies of Huns, Tommies, and Frenchmen, engaging them in furious fights. But when these games seem to foretell his dad's real battles, Johnny thinks he possesses godlike powers over his wooden men. He fears he controls his father's fate, the lives of all the soldiers in no-man's land, and the outcome of the war itself.

Chapter 1

My dad was a toy maker, the finest in London. He made miniature castles and marionettes, trams and trains and carriages. He carved a hobbyhorse that Princess Mary rode through the ballroom at Buckingham Palace. But the most wonderful thing that Dad ever made was an army of nutcracker men.

He gave them to me on my ninth birthday, thirty soldiers carved from wood, dressed in helmets and tall black boots. They carried rifles tipped with silver bayonets. They had enormous mouths full of grinning teeth that sparkled in the sun.

They were so beautiful that every boy who saw them asked for a set for himself. But Dad never made others. "They're one of a kind," he said. "Those are very special soldiers, those."

I had no other army to fight them against, so I marched my nutcracker men across the kitchen floor, flattening buildings that I made out of cards. I pretended that no other army even dared to fight against those fierce-looking soldiers.

When I was ten, the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!


  1. What is the relevance of Johnny's father being a toy maker? How are youth and adulthood represented in the novel? How is Johnny's father described before the war? What is his attitude toward the war at that time? How does Johnny's father's attitude toward the war change once he has reached the front? How do the descriptions of him change at that time?

  2. What role does nationality play throughout the book? How does Johnny's father feel about neighbors and friends such as Fatty Dienst when they leave England to fight in the war? Does his opinion of them change when he is fighting on the front lines?

  3. How does Johnny's understanding of war change from the beginning of the novel to the end? How are his ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
School Library Journal

Using vivid language, Lawrence writes poignantly of war and the devastation that England and its people suffered during World War I. Because of the first-person voice, readers travel the heights and depths with Johnny's emotions and feel present in the story. Grades 5-8.

Kirkus Reviews

A minor false note is that Johnny, a bright 11-year-old, needs to have his father's letters read to him, but that can be forgiven in an otherwise original piece of historical fiction in which big themes are hauntingly conveyed through gripping personal story and eerie symbolism. Ages 10-14.

Reader Reviews
Ron

Interesting...
What seemed very interesting is that Johnny's toys can influence the outcome of the war and his dad and all others. When I first read it, I was scared when it came to the parts in where the climax is the highest where the book gets the most saddest ...   Read More

random person

Review
We read this book for English at school. We all thought it would be boring but as soon as we started reading it we all liked it. We all liked the fact that Johnny was like a god and the soldiers. I would recommend this book for ages 2-202. It's ...   Read More

kayla

The best book i have read so far in my life.
I enjoyed reading this book. As Dad's war went on, Johnny's war continued just about the same way as his Dad's had. What had encouraged Johnny to want to have anything to do with the war-related things? This book left me with a few questions ...   Read More

pupil

I LOVE IT!
This is a great book! We are reading it for homework! For our assessment we have to write about how Johnny s father's attitude changed throughout the book! I wish I could see the letters do you know where I could find them as I no longer have the ...   Read More

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