December 19, 2011

The Time Time Stopped

by Don Gillmor
Scholastic Canada
151 pp.
Ages 8-11

Tristan Burberry has come to the conclusion that time is responsible for all his current miseries.  His family has moved and he's at a new school and not even at the beginning of the year when everyone is new.  He desperately wants to visit the zoo and his parents are always at work, having no time for him.  His twelve-year-old sister, Bella, lives for spending time at the mall.  And when he gets on the bus, there is only one seat available - the one beside Lump, the class bully, who threatens Tristan with "getting it" if he doesn't help him change the clocks so the teachers will let the students out early.  In a burst of frustration, Tristan pronounces his hatred of time and his wish for it to end immediately.  Coincidentally, the Time Keeper is walking by and, hearing Tristan, decides to quit his job, tired of all the complaints. 

If it weren't for the tongue-in-cheek humour, I might have wondered if Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written a sequel to The Little Prince (1943) substituting the concept of time in his search for that which is essential.  Tristan and Bella, in search of the Time Keeper, visit a variety of locales, including the zoo, the mall and a small town, meeting a menagerie of characters, including the Time Bandits and the Thief of Time.  So, as Tristan and his sister look to bring the Time Keeper back from retirement, the Thief of Time with his Time Bandits is looking to possess his machine and go into business selling time.

Gillmor's ever-present wit reminds us of our powerful relationship with time: needing to make time for ourselves; watching time fly; having too much time on our hands; not having enough hours in the day; feeling time sneaking up on us; having no time for friends and family; knowing that time continues to march on; and always wishing for more time, particularly for those circumstances we enjoy.  But, through the puns and slapstick, it is evident that, although there may be a machine to make time,  making time requires experience, patience and judgement.  The book's poignant message in these times of overworked parents, over-scheduled children and a nebulous future makes it an exceptional nominee for this year's Silver Birch Express Award.

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