Author Archives: Air

A Handful of Time (book review)

When people ask me what my favorite book was when I was younger, I usually immediately reply with The Phantom Tollbooth or Anne of Green Gables. But every time I pass my bookshelf and see A Handful of Time, I am filled with memories and recall how often I re-read it as a child and even as a young adult. Even now I’d probably pick it up to read again if I wanted a familiar comfort book.

A Handful of Time book cover


Back cover: When Patricia’s mother sends her to her cousins’ cottage for the summer, Patricia doesn’t want to go. She doesn’t know her cousins at all, and she’s never been good at camping or canoeing, let alone making new friends. When she arrives at the cottage, her worst fears come true: her cousin Kelly teases her; Aunt Ginnie and Uncle Doug feel sorry for her. She doesn’t fit in. Then Patricia discovers an old watch hidden under a floorboard. When she winds it, she finds herself taken back in time to the summer when her own mother was twelve.

This novel was first published in 1987 and is for grades 4-8 / ages 9-13. I can’t quite remember at what age I picked it up, but I think I was probably around nine or ten. I don’t even remember where I first read it. I own a copy, which means it was either given to me or I loved it so much I went out and bought my own!

Kit Pearson is Canadian and spent a good deal of her time between Alberta and British Columbia. On her website she states that she started the novel based on her own experiences and time spent at the cabin in the summer. Her own cousins bullied her as much as Patricia’s did. Writing a story about a girl being bullied wasn’t enough, she claims, and I found the way in which she got her inspiration for time travel simply delightful so I shall quote it here:

gold pocketwatch


THEN ONE EVENING MY EYES LIGHTED ON A GOLD POCKET WATCH THAT HAD BEEN LEFT TO ME BY MY GRANDMOTHER. IT HAD BELONGED TO HER FIANCÉ, WHO WAS KILLED IN WORLD WAR I. “AHA!” I THOUGHT. “I’LL TURN THE NOVEL INTO A TIME TRAVEL!” TIME TRAVEL FICTION HAS ALWAYS APPEALED TO ME AND IT WAS A SATISFYING CHALLENGE FIGURING OUT TO GET PATRICIA IN AND OUT OF THE PAST. READERS OFTEN ASK ME IF THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL TO THIS NOVEL. PERHAPS THERE WILL BE, IF THE WATCH GETS FIXED!

Quote taken from: http://www.kitpearson.com/handfuloftime.html

Thoughts on the novel:

My review is biased in that I loved it as a child. No promises that if you pick it up now as an adult it will be just as grand. If you pick it up and you’re twelve years old, then maybe I’ll promise it’s great.

I loved the way that Pearson dealt with time travel, and her imagery of the Canadian cottage country was delightful. Having gone camping a lot as a child, I could easily envision it all. I also loved the characters. I disliked Patricia’s present-day mother so much, as well as her cousins (because they were mean to Patricia, not because they weren’t well written), but the people she meets in the past, and her mother as a preteen, were so interesting and well written. It was a good cast of characters.

The novel left me day dreaming of summers spent out at the lakes, and wishing time-travel really was possible!

Overall, I’d likely recommend this book to anyone in the age range but also to friends or others who I know don’t mind reading novels aimed at a younger audience. In my opinion it’s a good book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, enough to read it time and time again as a child!

Our Favorite Re-Reads

Here’s a list from each of us of books we can’t help but pick up to read over and over!

Arielle’s:

  • Ravished by Amanda Quick 
    • Romance/Historical Fiction
  • Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • Darcy’s Passions by Regina Jeffers
    • Romance/Historical Fiction
  • Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
    • Young Adult/Historical Fiction/Adventure
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Taraya’s

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • Wolf Tower by Tanith Lee
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • Fire Arrow by Edith Pattou
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
    • Young Adult/Fantasy
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The Phantom Tollbooth (book review)

When people ask me what my favorite book was growing up, hands down I’d say The Phantom Tollbooth. In reality it’s probably tied with Anne of Green Gables. Those were my early loves. Following those, my favorites would be anything by Tamora Pierce and L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series.

Usually, though, I like to talk about The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ve even gone as far as mailing a few copies to people just to encourage them to read it! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to:

The Phantom Tollbooth book cover

The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer
Published: 1961 (Random House)
Ages: 8+

Back cover: For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . .

 

This book shaped the way I see the world and inspired my creativity to grow. My mother, brother and I were constantly quoting it to each other, saying, “Oh don’t jump to conclusions, you’ll have to swim back,” because we all knew that conclusions was an island and the only way to leave it was to swim.


It’s full of wonderful wordplay, and it views the world with such pleasing creativity. It has little illustrations every few pages that attempt to capture the oddity of the world Milo has found himself in. As a child the book is suspenseful and, near the end, a little frightening (at least it was for little me!) as Milo meets some horrible creatures before finding the princesses Rhyme and Reason.


My favorite place in the book then, and still to this day, was the Dictionopolis. I’ve loved words since I was little and I loved Dictionopolis because of how words were described. In Dictionopolis, you can literally eat your words and some words are sweet while others are not.

“OH DEAR, ALL THOSE WORDS AGAIN,” THOUGHT MILO AS HE CLIMBED INTO THE WAGON WITH TOCK AND THE CABINET MEMBERS. “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE IT MOVE? IT DOESN’T HAVE A—”

“BE VERY QUIET,” ADVISED THE DUKE, “FOR IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING.” AND, SURE ENOUGH, AS SOON AS THEY WERE ALL QUITE STILL, IT BEGAN TO MOVE THROUGH THE STREETS, AND IN A VERY SHORT TIME THEY ARRIVED AT THE ROYAL PALACE.

This book brought me a great deal of pleasure as a child, and then again as an adult – it’s one of my comfort go-to novels. What I didn’t understand as a child was so much fun to discover as an adult. It’s a well-loved book. When first published it received rave reviews and sold in excess past its expectations, and it has since been adapted into a film, opera, play and translated into many languages. The major theme of the book is the importance of learning to love learning. Perhaps it’s the reason I’ve gone on to do so many degrees in school! Maybe it has shaped me more than I realized.

I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s a little cheesy and certainly written for a young audience, but I loved it (and still do)!

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