CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 15 . . . . December 9, 2011
The Time Time Stopped.
Don Gillmor. Illustrated by Ashley Spires.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2011.
151 pp., pbk., $7.99.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Libby McKeever.
As Tristan was sitting under the counter in the women’s washroom, he was thinking about all his problems. Here he was, his first month in a new school and already he was getting into so much trouble. And just to change the time.
When he thought about it, time was a problem. Every school hour seemed to last a whole day. Each day felt like a week. Sitting in a school where you had no friends and the teacher didn’t believe you and the bully came and made you steal things – time went by slowly it seemed like his whole life had been spent in this school. It had been the longest three weeks of his life, the longest three weeks in the history of the universe.
And it wasn’t just school. Home was no better, he thought. His parents didn’t have any time for him (or anything really). And Bella certainly didn’t have time for him. He suddenly realized that his biggest problem wasn’t school or Bella or his parents, or even Burt Lump (though he certainly was a big problem): it was time. He either has too much of it or not enough, and now it was getting him into trouble. Time, he decided, was his enemy, Time was ruining this life.
Ever since Tristan’s family moved to another city, they never seemed to have time for him. Despite promising to spend Saturday at the zoo with him, when the weekend came, his parents needed to rush off to work. This meant Tristan needed to stay with his sister, Bella, something she didn’t appreciate, especially when she wanted to hang out with her new friends. Tristan decided that weekends should be called “week-endless, because it felt like his whole life was one big week that went on forever.”
On Monday, there was only one seat left on the school bus, and Tristan had to sit next to Burt Lump, the school bully. It isn’t long before Lump’s forcing Tristan to help him in his plan to make the teachers let them out early from school. Lump was going to change the clocks to read 3:30 while Tristan stole the teachers’ watches. As Tristan’s hiding under the sink after he has stolen the gym teacher’s watch, he suddenly yells, “I HATE TIME! I WISH IT WAS DEAD! I WANT IT TO END. RIGHT…NOW!” Though it was hard for people to realize what exactly had happened, it was evident something had changed. It felt like time had stopped.
When Tristan shouted those words, The Time Keeper happened to be passing by. After years of hearing people complain about time, either not enough when they were doing something fun, or too much when doing something they didn’t like, the Time Keeper decided to quit his job. He turned off the time machine and went on holidays.
It wasn’t long before the lack of time took its toll on people, and they simply lost interest in doing what they usually did. Life lost its purpose. When Tristan goes missing, Bella searches for him, finding him miles away at the zoo. They spend the night in a big barn realizing in the morning that it housed the Time Keeper’s time machine. They understand they need to help set things right, and so they begin a journey to find him. Soon the pair are tracking the bumbling Time Bandits who have kidnapped the Time Keeper in hopes of making a fortune by selling time.
Don Gillmour has created an interesting story around the question of time. He sprinkles various time references liberally throughout the story, such as killing time, time’s not dead, wasting time, and time on your hands. In doing so, Gillmour makes the reader think about why the time playing your favourite sport goes so quickly where the same amount of time spent at the dentist goes so slowly.
Tristan is a likable character, one with whom readers will sympathize as he struggles with busy parents, a new school and a sister who largely ignores him. The affirmation from Bella, “You brought sandwiches, that was smart,” as they decide to begin their pursuit, is the beginning of a change in their relationship as they work together to solve the mystery and bring back time.
Don Gillmor is the author of seven award-winning children’s picture books, including The Boy Who Ate the World (and the Girl Who Saved It), Sophie and the Sea Monster, and the Governor General’s Literary Award winner, Yuck, a Love Story. The Time Time Stopped, Gillmor’s mid-grade fiction novel, is illustrated by Ashley Spires who is both the creator of Binky the Space Cat and a contributor of illustrations to Scholastic Canada’s Scary Science.
Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Coordinator at Whistler Public Library in Whistler, B.C.
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