Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Tales Explore the Meaning of Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Tales Explore the Meaning of Time

Article excerpt

Sometimes it feels as though there aren't enough hours in the day. Two books explore how time can be spent or savored.

In Paige Britt's "The Lost Track of Time" (Scholastic Press, $17.99, ages 8-12), Penelope knows just how she wants to spend her time. She'd like to build a habitat for her nonexistent hamster, keep a diary for her nonexistent twin sister, who's lost at sea, or write a story about a dragon.

Unfortunately, her mother has other ideas. She schedules every event in Penelope's day down to the minute - the better for her to get into a good college - and considers writing a waste of precious time. Finally, exhausted from science camp and other involuntary extracurricular activities, Penelope can no longer write.

Her only respite is to steal a moment with Miss Maddie, her compassionate neighbor, whenever she finds a blank page in her schedule. One day while she waits for Miss Maddie to make tea, Penelope falls down the hole in her schedule and lands in the Realm of Possibility.

There, she meets an explorer (and mushroom aficionado) named Dill, whose introduction calls to mind the White Rabbit from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" or Mr. Tumnus from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Dill is looking for the Great Moodler, whose talent for "moodling," or daydreaming, sustained the land with a wealth of possibilities. Now, however, the Realm is controlled by Chronos, a dictator who has reduced the number of possibilities to 217 and synchronized everyone to the ticking of omnipresent clocks.

Word puzzles and "The Phantom Tollbooth"-esque puns overtake character development as Dill and Penelope travel the Realm, following hunches, tickling fancies and trying to avoid being snared in the Naughty Woulds.

The personification of common figures of speech is potentially interesting. But it also falls curiously flat as soon as the joke becomes apparent.

When Penelope and Dill are captured, Chronos sentences them to work "around the clock" until they become drone-like Clockworkers. To defeat Chronos and free the Great Moodler, Penelope must rely on her wits - and, of course, wordplay - to have any possibility of success. …

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