Katie Bieker

Author – Science, Environment, Travel, Children's Books

1958 – Time of Wonder

Ah Robert McCloskey again. What a wonderful author. Caldecott Medal winner Time of Wonder really is gorgeous. That’s probably the best adjective for it. The pictures are mystical, the content descriptive and tangible… you can feel everything that happens in the story with all of your senses. And yet, again, as with many of these outstanding children’s books, this is accomplished with relatively few words. But I will say that it is long enough that even my five year old has some trouble sitting still through the whole thing. And this book does not talk down to kids. There aretime of wonder big words and references that, especially to a Kansas girl, require a great deal of explanation.

Despite the slight challenge of length and vocabulary, young children are still drawn in, perhaps by the tasteful dose of repetitive phrases, the onomatopoeias and the exciting activities of the children. Indeed, the title “Time of Wonder” takes on new meaning for this generation. My kids will never spend an entire summer on a beach. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be actively involved in the work of hauling seaweed or preparing for a hurricane. My kids will never be allowed to swim unattended all day on a rocky ocean outcrop or canoe about at night under the stars without supervision. It was a time of wonder, and that time has passed. It is as mysterious and fantastic as a fairytale. But, you are reminded of the reality of the time and place by the smattering of proper nouns. The names of friends, neighbors, islands and boats lend credibility and make it seem like colorful, historical nonfiction.

What can we take from this as writers? Once again, we must find adventure and beauty in the ordinary. Look at the world from a few feet shorter. Each unfurling fern and uprooted tree, the approach of a storm… everything has its own music and magic. I take this book as an example that a long children’s book can be successful after all, if it’s good enough. Impeccable illustrations don’t hurt either. Although this landlubber could do with a few more ducklings and the sweet “kaplink, kaplank, kaplunk” of blueberries, there’s no denying that Mr. McCloskey really did outdo himself with this masterpiece.

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