Quirky Book Lists: Time

Mar­garet Wise Brown once wrote that chil­dren won­dered about “mys­te­ri­ous clock time.” I cer­tain­ly did as a child. I sim­ply could not learn to tell time. This was back in the dark ages of ana­log clocks that seemed to hold secrets oth­ers could deci­pher but elud­ed me. I could have used any of the books on this list, but one in par­tic­u­lar is perfect.

Time surged in impor­tance at the end of the old cen­tu­ry. We were ner­vous about what would hap­pen to our com­put­ers (remem­ber Y2K?). The com­ing mil­len­ni­um weighed as heav­i­ly as a tipped-over grand­fa­ther clock. But when Jan­u­ary 1, 2000, tripped over, we sailed into the new cen­tu­ry. Here is a list of children’s books about time from 1999 to 2019.

Story of Clocks and Calendars  

The Sto­ry of Clocks and Cal­en­dars: Mark­ing a Millennium
writ­ten by Bet­sy Maestro
illus­trat­ed by Giulio Maestro
Lothrop, Lee & Shep­ard, 1999

A stick­er on the cov­er announces, The Book for the Year 2000. The book asks the ques­tion, “How can it be the year 2000?” and then describes what a year is. A voy­age through time cov­ers the time mark­ers like Stone­henge, the con­stel­la­tions, and cal­en­dars adopt­ed by dif­fer­ent cul­tures, fin­ish­ing up with the his­to­ry of clocks.

What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?


What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile?
writ­ten by Judy Sierra
illus­trat­ed by Doug Cushman
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2004

Mr. Croc­o­dile plans his day from wak­ing up at 9:00 a.m. to singing a lul­la­by to him­self at 8:00 p.m. His biggest goal is to catch, cook, and eat five pesky mon­keys that derail his day. His best-laid sched­ule is knocked hilar­i­ous­ly awry in this rhyming pic­ture book.

Clock Struck One  

The Clock Struck One
writ­ten by Trudy Harris
illus­trat­ed by Car­rie Hartman
Scholas­tic, 2004.

A ram­bunc­tious take on the famil­iar nurs­ery rhyme has the mouse run­ning up the clock. But he’s fol­lowed by a cat crav­ing mouse-tail tea. Soon a barn­yard of ani­mals joins the chase that spills from the house all the way into town. Sharp-eyed read­ers can spot var­i­ous types of clocks through­out the sto­ry. Ana­log and dig­i­tal clocks are reviewed in the back matter.

About Time  

About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bruce Koscielniak
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2004

Time-keep­ing through the ages cov­er­ing amaz­ing ear­ly locks like water clocks, shad­ow clocks, oil clocks, tur­ret clocks, medieval alarm clocks, up through mod­ern time pieces. The con­cept of time is explained through solar and lunar cycles.

House with a Clock in Its Walls  

The House with a Clock in Its Walls
writ­ten by John Bellairs
illus­trat­ed by Edward Gorey
Puf­fin Books, 2004

The first Lewis Bar­navelt book was pub­lished in 1973, reis­sued in 2004 in advance of the 2018 movie. Lewis lives with his magi­cian uncle, who lives next door to Mrs. Zim­mer­man, also a magi­cian. Dab­bling in mag­ic him­self, Lewis inad­ver­tent­ly calls up the for­mer own­er of the house, who built a dooms­day clock into the walls. Read the book, for­get the movie.

Invention of Hugo Cabret  

The Inven­tion of Hugo Cabret
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Selznick
Scholas­tic, 2007

An orphan boy keeps the clocks run­ning in a Paris train sta­tion. His secret life behind the walls is inter­rupt­ed by a strange girl and an old man who also occu­py the train sta­tion. Read the ele­gant book, then watch the equal­ly-ele­gant movie.

Time is When  

Time Is When
writ­ten by Beth Gleick
illus­trat­ed by Marthe Jocelyn
Tun­dra Books, 2008

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1960, Time Is When was reis­sued with new illus­tra­tions in 2004. This pic­ture book tack­les the con­cept of “from before to now; from now to lat­er.” A delight­ful­ly diverse cast parades through sec­onds, min­utes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years in Jocelyn’s paper and fab­ric collages.


Just a Second  

Just a Sec­ond: A Dif­fer­ent Way to Look at Time
rit­ten and illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2011

Sim­ple back­grounds show­case Jenk­ins’ col­lage art paired with lit­tle-known facts based on units of time. Did you know a bat can make 200 high-pitched calls in a sec­ond? The sun trav­els half a mil­lion miles in one hour? Glob­al warm­ing caus­es seas to rise an eighth of an inch a year? Fac­toid fans will devour this book. The sci­ence will aston­ish them … and make them think.

Noisy Clock Shop  

The Noisy Clock Shop
writ­ten by Jean Hor­ton Berg
illus­trat­ed by Art Seiden
Gros­set & Dun­lap, 2015

Part of G‑D Vin­tage, this book first appeared in 1950, revive in a larg­er for­mat. Mr. Winky repairs clocks. When a vis­it­ing friend says his shop is too noisy, Mr. Winky search­es for a qui­et place. Not the city, not the train, not the farm, not even the woods. The only place Mr. Winky feels at home is his cheer­ful, tock­ing clock shop.

Secret Keepers  

The Secret Keepers
writ­ten by Tren­ton Lee Stewart
Lit­tle Brown, 2016

Reuben is thrilled when he finds an antique watch that, odd­ly, needs to be wound every fif­teen min­utes. Then he dis­cov­ers its secret, life-chang­ing pow­ers. Then he finds him­self up against The Smoke, a devi­ous vil­lain. Watch­mak­er Mrs. Genevieve and a girl from the past try to help Reuben, but his new-found pow­ers are more than he can handle.

Fix That Clock  

Fix That Clock
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Kurt Cyrus
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2019

A derelict clock tow­er is home to bats, owls, pigeons and mice. Then a deter­mined crew steps in to rebuild the tow­er and get the clock work­ing again. Brisk rhyme packed with con­struc­tion sounds prod read­ers to fol­low the remod­el­ing … and the oust­ed ani­mals. Wood scraps inspire unique con­dos in a sur­prise ending.

Telling Time  

Telling Time
writ­ten by David A. Adler
illus­trat­ed by Edward Miller
Hol­i­day House, 2019

Four astro­naut kids, two robots, and one Mar­t­ian spend a day in space. Each stage of their trip explains sec­onds, min­utes, hours, A.M. and P.M., noon and mid­night, dig­i­tal and ana­log clocks, time zones, mil­i­tary time, and — most impor­tant—how to tell time. This is the book I need­ed when I was a kid. Learn­ing to tell time has nev­er been so much fun, and so easy to understand.

Crossing on Time  

Cross­ing on Time: 
Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Jour­ney to the New World
rit­ten and illus­trat­ed by David Macaulay
Roar­ing Brook, 2019

While Macaulay’s book is about ships, main­ly the one that brought him to the Unit­ed States, it’s also about time. The time it took peo­ple to cross the Atlantic until the inven­tion of the steam engine. The time it took William Fran­cis Gibb to design and build the SS Unit­ed States. The time it took the Macaulay fam­i­ly to come from Eng­land to New York on that ship. Filled with Macaulay’s trade­mark dia­grams and intri­cate detail, this is also a touch­ing sto­ry about a boy who want­ed to see the Empire State Build­ing — and all that it stood for — more than anything.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments