Time is When by Beth Gleick

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Stars: ****

I received this book for review from Tundra Books.

Summary: Nearly fifty years ago, author Beth Gleick’s three-year-old son, James, asked her, “What is time?” The question prompted her to reply in a picture book for preschoolers, using simple language and familiar scenes: “In one second, you can bounce a ball, or jump, or say hello, or turn a page…”

Beth Gleick’s clean turn of phrase cleverly explains the passing of time – from seconds, minutes and hours to months, seasons and years. First published in 1960, Time is When is lovingly reillustrated by collage-artist Marthe Jocelyn, who pays homage to the original art, but who creates a whimsical and ingenious world of her own with patterned papers and printed fabrics. In one lovely picture book is the answer to a complex question asked by children around the world: “What is time?”

This is a picture book but unlike most, is a little longer and is in a rectangular shape, more like books for older kids than a picture book. In fact it is marketed more as Juvenile Non-fiction but you don’t often see Non-fiction for preschoolers so it’s also counted as a picture book.

The book is a great way to introduce children to the concept of time. My daughter (who is almost three) constantly hears me refer to time in the form of, “In a minute!” and “Grandma will be here in one hour.” However she never knows how long those are. By comparing a unit of time with something the child is familiar with, Beth Gleick makes time understandable to preschoolers.

Here are a few quotes:

“A day has 24 hours. It starts at midnight, while you are sleeping. It has a morning, a noon, an afternoon, and an evening. And then it ends at midnight, again while you are sleeping.”

“In one minute, you can walk one block (if you walk quickly and don’t stop to look in the store windows.)”

“There are seven days in a week. From Sunday until the next Sunday is one week. There are about four weeks in one month and 52 weeks in one year.”

As the book is marketed for preschoolers, the age range is 3-6. The younger child will understand less of the book than the older child but the book isn’t too much for a 3 year old or smart 2 1/2 year old. They absorb a lot more than we think.

Marthe Jocelyn’s illustrations are once again delightful and engaging for children. My daughter loves looking at the illustrations.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.