Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“Jack et la Mécanique du Coeur” (original title)

Creator: Mathias Malzieu (original novella/composer of all music through his band Dionysos/voice of Jack in the original French tracks)

Media Type: Feature Film, 94 minutes

Audience: Tween to Adult (regardless of what Netflix says).

Note: there isn’t any gore/violence/overt sex that typically warrants a tweens and up suggestion.  And yes, it is a musical, but not a Disney musical with fully orchestrated sing-alongs. Instead this CG film is very surreal and moves very quickly with operatic styled music, which would likely lead it to bore most small children.


On the coldest day in history, on the edge of Edinburgh a young woman is desperate to make it to the midwife in time to give birth to her son. The time in the cold, though, has taken it’s toll and the boy is born with a heart made of ice. The midwife (a doctor/inventor named Madeleine who is rumored to be a witch) quickly replaces this ineffective heart with a cuckoo-clock and tells the baby that there are three rules he must follow to keep his cuckoo-heart running:

  1. Never touch the hands of your heart
  2. Keep your temper under control
  3. Never, ever, fall in love.

Jack lives for ten uneventful years safely cooped up in the home he shares with Madeleine and several of her eccentric friends. For his tenth birthday he begs his adoptive mother to let him visit town, which he has never been allowed to do before. She agrees but implores him to abide by his three rules.

He doesn’t.

Instead he falls in love with a beautiful Spanish girl he hears singing at a fountain and decides he must chase the girl of his dreams all the way across Europe. But as time goes by, he begins to worry. Will she remember him? Will she love him the way he loves her? And if she does, can his fragile heart take it?

The Good:

  • This is an incredible film from a visual standpoint. The graphics are fabulously detailed and keep your attention throughout the film.
  • The steampunk elements are frequent (locomotives with bellows segments and horseless carriages to name a few) and intelligently used.
  • The music is emotionally resonant and unique; a breath of fresh air into the musical genre.

The Bad:

  • Tragically, this film suffers from terrible translation issues. The dialog is rushed and doesn’t allow you any time to reflect on what’s said before three more lines are spoken. The US Netflix version is only available in English, but if you can I suggest watching it in the original French with subtitles.
  • It’s weird.
    • Normally this isn’t a negative, but the surreal nature of the film made it sometimes hard to follow. For instance, Jack the Ripper makes an appearance during a traveling song, and it’s not explained or ever brought up again.


Remember this video I posted a few weeks ago?

It’s the single from the Dionysos album called La Mécanique du Cœur was composed and recorded to accompany the novella which the film is adapted from. The above music video was created by the director of the film and in a similar (though not identical) style.

Learn more about The Novella

Learn more about The Album

Learn more about The Film

Also instead of a trailer, below is a clip from the film. This is where Jack meets Miss Acacia. It gives a great taste for the films music and style. 

et en Français:

Let me know what you think of the movie in the comments or via Twitter @SteamLib.


Welcome to Kurios: Cirque meets Steam!

Official Kurios Promotional Image

The IT Guy and myself we’re lucky enough to get to see Kurios in Chicago last week. For those of you unfamiliar with Cirque du Soleil, the performance group brings together various acrobatic and traditional circus performance acts: contortionists, gymnastic acts, trapeze artists, and more. The acts all tie together following a general story line (for shows like Quidam) or simply all match a costume/inspirational theme (like Ovo). Shows run for about 2 hours (plus an intermission) and have a variety of acts within them. For each show there is always a distinctive selection of acts that match the theme or attitude of the show.

Shows takes place under a ‘traditional’ big top, only better. Cirque tent: large multi-post tent made of bold yellow and blue stripes with a decorative arc entrance

Inside the tent is a full size stage with intensive rigging and (thankfully) blasting A/C. Before you get to the stage, though, you can do a fair amount of shopping for the standard theater swag like tshirts, hoodies, hats, and umbrellas (my personal selection) as well as Circ merch like art books, CDs, and the like. New to me was the photobooth where waiting ticket holders could choose from an array of props for a green-screen photo op. Luckily the ITGuy is a good sport and humored me:

The Librarian and the IT guy in Victorian hats holding fake cameras inside a green-screen hot air balloon picture

Kurios, where “Reality if Relative”, has a very upbeat and excitable attitude. The costumes range from traditional Victorian garb for the balancing gymnasts to colorful poke-a-dotted fish suits for the contortionists. True to the Steampunk aesthetic the main non-gymnastic character, The Man Scientist, was accompanied by large automatons, several phonographs, and cracks of free flowing electricity. The music, played by a live band of a cello, a banjo, a violin, and a single drum and accompanied by a live vocalist, had the feeling of Moulin Rouge: peppy, dance inspiring, and distinctly French.

Acts included:

  • An aerial bicycle
  • Russian Cradle (strong-man throws a very small woman around allowing her to complete trapeze style aerial flips)
  • Contortionists
  • Chair Balance (chairs are stacked higher and higher requiring the performer to balance carefully on at a constantly increasing height)
  • Acro Net (trampoline act with parkour inspired motion)
  • Cirque staple Aerial Straps
  • Rola Bola balancing act on an aviator’s flying machine

See a full list and description (plus costume previews) on the show’s website.

Personally I was most impressed with the Acro Net. It was incredible to see over a dozen performers all working together with perfect timing to jump, spring, and fly across the stage. It was fun to watch, and the performers seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves too. Unlike many Cirque acts which leave you staring in awe at the grace and strength of the performers this was purely entertaining.

So would I suggest Kurios as a Steampunk outing? You bet your brass buttons I do.

While it’s easy to dismiss the show as simply taping into a popular theme, that doesn’t give the choreographers or costumers the credit they deserve. They took core feelings of Steampunk — the appreciation for the self made artist, the imagination, and the re imagining of the turn-of-the-century circus — and turned it into a non-verbal performance piece. That’s no easy feat, and they did it impeccably.

Kurios will be in Chicago through September, then it will continue to travel. Check where it’ll be next on the Cirque ticket website.  Cirque shows travel a lot, and at different times over the years. If you don’t see your city listed, check back regularly OR you can join the Cirque Club and get emails whenever any show is coming to you.

Even if a circus show isn’t your cup of tea, the custom music from the show can serve as amazing artistic inspiration, or to shake up your next Steampunk event playlist. The music is distinctly jazzy and Francophonic making it not only fun to listen to, but wholly engaging and attention grabbing.

Steam Themed Halloween

Halloween is my favorite time of year: crunchy leaves, pumpkin everything, costumes, make-up, parties, and of course the annual revival of “Hocus Pocus”. This post is all about bringing steampunk into your library (or home, or community center) for Halloween. Some ideas are wholly steam-themed while others are ways to add some Victorian flair to any Halloween program.
Have your own favorite program for Halloween, or pictures from a successful event? Have it hosted on the site by sending it to submissions@steampunklibrary.net. You can also share pictures of events, costumes, and more with us on Twitter @SteamLib.

Program Type: Film Series/Book Group
Audience: 13+
Time Frame: Varies
Space Needed: Film viewing room, book group meeting room
Budget Considerations:
• Film showing rights, if applicable
• Custodial for rooms
• Popcorn/snacks for movie nights
When you think of monsters who comes to mind? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Victorian monsters became the staple of the silver screen for a reason: their stories are equal parts terror and intrigue. Since there are so many film options now the monsters make themselves an easy pick for a mini-film festival. The festival can be stand-alone, or tied in to other programs, like a book group. The original story behind the films are very short (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Portrait of Dorian Grey) which are well suited for teen readers. For adults Frankenstein, Dracula, or a Jack the Ripper novel lend themselves to longer book group discussions. The film showings are a great way to stir up interest and advertise the book groups to an audience with a noted interest.

Program: Steam-Themed Family Masquerade
Audience: Family
Time Frame: 2 hours
Space Needed: Open floor space for dancing, tables for snacks, and tables for crafts
Budget Considerations:
• Custodial services
• Food (finger munchies and candy)
• Craft supplies (felt, glue, craft sticks, glitter, small paper hats, white and black fabric masks, etc)
For a family-friendly Halloween event host a masquerade! Invite community members to come in costume and read scary stories, share treats, dance a little, and give their kids a reason to put on their costume again. Starting just before the event and running throughout allow guests to make their own party mask. This is easily made steam-y by providing gears, gold glitter, small Lego octopus creatures, and lace to adorn the DIY masks. Costume contest categories can also be made steam by having a category for Victorian Monsters or book characters.
P.S. The library blog Ms Kelly at the Library has great Halloween party games for kids

Looking for a grown-ups only party? Easily make the masquerade into a Victorian Murder Mystery night! Have your guests dress in their best steampunk attire (help them feel inspired to start a custom costume project) There are dozens of sites with downloadable party templates and ideas and some include hosting tips. These party templates can then be altered to have The Parasol Protectorate’s dashing Lord Akeldama as man of the hour, or Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker Machine as a murder weapon.
Don’t forget to include all your steampunk favorites into your Halloween book displays and bulletin boards! What better to bring fear into a reader’s heart than a mad scientist, a sea monster, or a vampire with an impeccably perfect cravat? Inspire Victorian costume by highlighting fashion histories, DIY sewing/craft books, and the colorful covers of YA steampunk in your collection. Steampunk art books also liven up a display and show the genre in it’s best season.

Steampunk Coloring & Activity Book

Rainy weekend plan
Rainy weekend plan

Title: Steampunk Coloring and Activity Book
Author: Phoebe Longhi

Age/Audience: All

Genre/Style: Activity and coloring books

Read If You Like: Coloring, word search, 10 minute activities


Though aimed at youth this steam-themed paperback activity book appeals to anyone with a box of crayons at hand. Connect-the-dot images, word searches, and ‘complete the picture’ style pages are then paired with cooking recipes and riddles. This variety allows the thin volume to appeal to a wide audience, all with a combined steampunk/anime style.

Example page
Example coloring page

Bottom Line:

Great for a rainy day or travel activity for any age, artistic skill entirely optional.

Find It:



Steam Powered Giraffe

Performers: David Bennett, “Bunny” Bennett, & Sam Luke

Media Type: Musical Group / Pantomime

Audience: All/ Family Friendly


Steam Powered Giraffe is an entertainment group, first and foremost. They mix original musical and vocal performance with turn of the century-styled robotic pantomime. Music style varies from folksy to soft rock to pop-covers. From the band’s FAQ page their influences include “The Band, ELO, The Beatles, Queen, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Mills Brothers, The Bee Gees, Amanda Palmer, Danny Elfman, Frank Sinatra, Radiohead, Muse… And the list goes on!”

The act includes full make-up and costume, plus mechanical movements whizzing, gear popping, and the occasional malfunction. Family friendly without feeling watered down, SPG offers a full artistic steam punk experience you can enjoy at home in your corset via their iTunes and their YouTube channel or get gussied up to watch them in person at any one of dozens of conventions across North America. When you inevitably decide to purchase their music, consider a physical CD over iTunes to get their original steam punk art filled lyric books.


Bottom Line: A great band that’s equal parts musical quality and visual performance.

Find It: http://www.steampoweredgiraffe.com and via YouTube:

Around the World in 80 Days

Creator: Jules Verne (novel), David N. Titcher (screenplay), Staring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, and Jim Broadbent

Media Type: Feature Film, 120 minutes

Audience: Family Friendly



Phileas Fogg is a brilliant inventor living in Victorian London. His inventions fill his home with whistle-activated light bulbs, an automated fan system, and a steam-hydraulic vehicle for when he doesn’t want to wear his wheeled shoes around. After he discovers that man can travel at 50mph via experiments with steam-powered rockets, he goes to announce his discoveries to the Royal Academy of Science. The Royal members, though, are unimpressed. Desperate to earn the respect of his fellow scientists Fogg makes an incredible wager: if he can make it around the world in 80 days he replace Lord Kelvin and become the new head of the Academy. However, if he loses, he must publically denounce his inventions, destroy his laboratory, and never enter the Academy again. With the assistance of his newly acquired French-Chinese valet, Passepartout, Fogg sets out to complete his quest. The journey already promises to be difficult from the word go, but the sabotages set upon them by Lord Kelvin, as well as a mysterious assembly of Chinese assassins focused on Passepartout, this wager could cost Fogg more than he bargained for.


Bottom Line: Filled with steam powered inventions, colorful cravats, and a hilarious collection of unexpected guest appearances this movie is an all around delightful.


Read More:


Wild, Wild West

Creator: Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Staring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, and Salma Hayek

Media Type: Feature Film, 106 minutes

Audience: Family



When the American Civil War came to an end, the nation was teeming with gunslingers, saloons, and angry defeated confederate soldiers. One soldier, Arliss Loveless, refuses to accept the new order of the US and begins building a heavily weaponized machines. His machines, based partially on the design for his own steam-powered wheelchair, are the support for his plan to force US president Ulysses S Grant to divide the states once again. Set to stop him are an unwilling pair: gunslinger Capt James West and US Marshal Gordon. The two are facing an uphill battle again ex-Confederate troops as Capt West struggles to maintain authority as a black officer in the prejudiced South and the steam-hydrolic technologies may just be more than the pair can handle. Assisted by Rita, the daughter of one of Loveless’ engineers, will the US be able to maintain its rebuilt unity? Or will the Transcontinental Railroad be a failed attempt at cohesion, leading to all out war?


Bottom Line: A little corny but a lot of fun WWW offers an American spin on steampunk. Filled to the brim with weapons, flying machines, and the iconic Spider this film offers a chance to sit back with the family and laugh while appreciating the American corset style for a change.


Read More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Wild_West

Find It: http://www.worldcat.org/title/wild-wild-west/oclc/527853299

Castle in the Sky

Creator: Hayao Miyazaki, Director

Media Type: Animated Film, 124 minutes

Audience: Family


Prepare for an adventure mystery that leaves you in awe. Miyazaki films are known for their incredible animation and gripping stories, and this is no different.

Aboard the immense flying warship Goliath the mysterious Muska is holding young Sheeta hostage. Sheeta is the last living inheritor of a long family secret to the flying city of Laputa; part El Dorado myth part steampunk sky-city. When the Goliath is attacked by air pirates Sheeta escapes by jumping from the airship. She takes refuge with Pazu, an orphan living alone in a harsh mining town. With Muska and the pirates hot on their heels, the two must race to reach Laputa and understand her secrets before her technologies can be used for war.

Bottom Line: Absolutely beautiful film with all the fantastical steampunk elements (airships, robots/automatons, in-charge female air pirates captains) you want from a movie, but with a new animated flair.


Watch It:http://www.worldcat.org/title/laputa-castle-in-the-sky/oclc/822886354

Find More: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092067/?ref_=nv_sr_1