"THE CLOCKWORK THREE," by Matthew Kirby, Scholastic, $17.99 (ages 8-12) www.amazon.com

What do a street musician, a maid and an apprentice clockmaker have in common? More than you think.

In "The Clockwork Three," a new book for middle readers by Utahn Matthew Kirby, these three characters take center stage.

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold into slavery as a worker for an evil padrone in the United States. Giuseppe dreams of returning to Italy and to his family, but sees no way of making it happen. When he discovers a mysterious green violin floating in the water, Giuseppe's outlook takes an unexpected turn.

Hannah is a sweet girl who supports her family by working as a hotel maid. Hannah's family used to live comfortably, but after her father has a stroke, they are forced to move to the tenements and Hannah has no choice other than to leave school and work. Working in a hotel turns out to be a positive, though, when Hannah learns of a hidden treasure.

Frederick is a clockmaker's apprentice, and all he can dream of is becoming a journeyman. He's been secretly working on a project that will stun the guild, a life-size automaton that will be perfect — if he can craft a head that actually works.

A series of seemingly normal events turn out to be not so normal as they bring the three youths together to face the unknown.

Part mystery, part adventure, part science project, "The Clockwork Three" is as imaginative as it is fun.

Kirby's attention to detail and descriptive powers are fantastic — you can almost see the automaton moving and hear the green violin playing.

"The Clockwork Three" has a classic feel to it, setting it apart from a glut of trendy offerings, and with multiple characters and story lines, it will appeal to a variety of young readers.