I’m back from some lovely weeks of Christmas snowfalls, cardamom bread for breakfast, family reunions, tea and games around a crackling fire, and so much candlelight during these dark winter days. I thought the beginning of a new year seemed like a great TIME to read about TIME! Beginning with one of my favorite books from 2013…
The Silver Button, written and illustrated by Bob Graham
This elegant book surveys just one minute of time.
One minute in the life of a tot named Jonathan, big sister Jodie, and Mom. A humble, quiet, momentous minute. A Thursday morning minute of coloring and clutter and nonchalance, in which Jonathan takes his first step. In the hovering moment between one slight movement and another in Jodie’s life, just the time it takes for a feather to float gently to the earth — in that same minute, a worldful of living is happening:
A child plays with her grandpa.
A baker sells bread.
A soldier says a hard goodbye.
A baby is born.
All over the city, in each sphere, that one minute is full, each person occupied wholly in his slight or weighty affairs, oblivious to all the other living happening in a thousand spaces around him.
That’s the gorgeous subject of this book which knocked my socks off last year. Bob Graham’s homely drawings, comfy as your favorite pair of blue jeans, are drawn from multiple perspectives as we view this minute of time from many angles and locations. The concept and his uncanny ability to portray it are profound, yet this book is accessible to preschool children. Older children will be more capable of noting the details in the pictures, however. There are lots of clever tying-together pieces in his illustrations which are a joy to look at again, and again. Don’t miss this quiet gem.
Mr. Higgins is a little bit of a Benjamin Franklin look-alike. He lives in a tall, narrow, four-story house. One day, Mr. Higgins finds an old grandfather clock tucked way up in his attic. It’s a beauty! Mr. Higgins is quite pleased, but he has a niggling worry: How does he know if it’s telling the right time?
He settles this by buying a second clock for his bedroom. It says it’s 3:00 on the dot. Mr. Higgins scrambles up the long ladder into his attic. But oh dear! The attic clock says it’s a minute past 3. Which one is right?
Dear Mr. Higgins buys several more new clocks, places them on various floors of his house, and becomes increasingly bewildered by their differences in time, until a visit from the clever local clockmaker solves his difficulties.
Pat Hutchins has written scads of lovely picture books over the past 40-plus years, and we have enjoyed many of them. This title was originally published in 1970 I believe. It’s got the clever, funny plot Hutchins does so well, along with her delightful illustrations — flat swatches of mustard and pumpkin, lime and avocado with a great deal of stylized pattern. Fanciful with a snitch of silly for preschoolers through age 6.
The forest animals — Bear and Mole, Hedgehog and Rabbit — live a soft and sweet life until Mr. Cuckoo arrives. Mr. Cuckoo declares that his job is telling the time, and he proudly sets about heralding the quarter hours and half-pasts. This is a new twist for the others, who soon begin hurrying and scurrying and worrying about being late! All quite fatiguing.
One day, however, “a fair girl Cuckoo” enters the forest and what do you know!, the hours sail by without Mr. Cuckoo’s notice! Suddenly, he’s stopped chanting the hours. Quite a lovely change of pace for his forest friends!
This darling import from France makes a sweet bedtime story with its whisper-soft watercolor paintings, kindly and plump animal friends, happily-ever-after storyline and all-around charm. It’s a great reminder that hustle and rush aren’t entirely conducive to happiness. Ages 4 and up.
At seven o’clock in the morning, darling Mr. Wolf is awakened by the teasing twitterings of four and twenty blackbirds. Ugh! It’s too…yawn…early. At eight o’clock, all his neighbors in this fairy-tale village set off to work — Three Little Pigs slam three little doors, one Baby Bear trudges down the road with his satchel, Bo-Peep herds sheep, The Little Mermaid gabs with a Frog Prince. “What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?” the piggies mock as they mosey on by. Hmpf.
At nine o’clock Red Riding Hood delivers mail — to everyone but poor Mr. Wolf, and at 10:00 those piggies make a boisterous prank call to him. As Mr. Wolf passes the hours of the day his smidgeon of hopeful anticipation wanes as his nursery tale neighbors dole out a dash of teasing and a wallop of rushing. So disappointing on such a Special Day.
At six o’clock however, Mr. Wolf is in for a big surprise!
Absolutely adorable watercolor and ink illustrations fill the cheery pages of this book which spins off from the age-old children’s game. From her Scottish garden studio, Debi Gliori has drawn a darling fairytale world with oodles of clever details. Children will love spotting their storybook friends here, and cheering FOR the wolf, who really is a pleasant fellow after all. Ages 4 and up.
It’s January 1 and all around the world, children are ringing in the new year, but they’re doing it in such different places, such different ways, such different climates and houses, and even, mysteriously, at different times.
Our narrator is a fellow named Sailor Oliver Smith — SOS for short — who’s been shipwrecked on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific situated near the International Date Line. When it’s noon on the first day of the new year for SOS, it’s eight different times for the eight different children we also follow through the pages of this book, and the hours of the day.
Tom lives in Chicago, where it’s 6 p.m., still on December 31, and he’s watching television.
Zé is in Rio de Janeiro, where it’s 10 p.m., December 31, and he’s got to stop making kites and go to bed.
Kae-Kae in Beijing is enjoying some firecrackers on January 1 at 8 a.m.
We’re keeping track of children from England, Kenya, Moscow, Sydney, and Tokyo, as well.
Each page of this unique, ambitious book features nine different pictures — one each of SOS and his international friends — as we make our way through 21 hours of time in three-hour increments. Each child and location is illustrated by a different artist.Eric Carle’s exuberant collage work illustrates Tom’s day in the U.S., while Leo and Diane Dillon tackle the Kenyan day and Aussie Ron Brooks shows us a day Down Under. Meanwhile, Mitsumasa Anno narrates through the voice of SOS, calling our attention to various activities in each location.
Nine strikingly different styles, nine vastly different cultures, nine different time zones, but everywhere children who sleep and eat, play and create, as they bring in a new year full of life. Peace, according to Anno, is the overarching theme of the book.
It’s a book to linger over, with repeat visits, just to absorb all that’s in the marvelous illustrations. Included is a lengthy, thorough explanation of time zones for older readers, and such cool photos of each of the artists circa 1986 along with their bios and signatures. Fascinating read for ages 7 and up.