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.
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:
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!