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It is fall 1914 and the Great War has begun. Johnny's father, a toy manufacturer, leaves for the front. When London is threatened, Johnny's mother sends him to the country to stay with his Aunt Ivy; nonetheless, his father writes to him regularly. Each chapter of the book begins with one of his letters. The letters are accompanied by wooden soldiers that his father carves in his free time. These letters inspire bloody battles in the backyard. The toy soldiers Johnny receives grow more and more troubling in their portrayal of the sordid reality of war. He has the impression that everything that happens in the garden is also happening in France and that he can decide the outcome of the war.
The novel Lord of the Nutcracker Men is a realistic and sensitive book about a troubling period in world history. It describes the atrocities of the Great War -- the trenches, fear, horror and death. It takes a critical look at the despair of the soldiers and at the pain that war imposes on those who are left at home.