Mother forking space and time

The neighborhood that the four main characters of NBC's The Good Place resided in was rebooted over 800 times by the demon Michael. Every time one of the characters would figure out that they were actually in The Bad Place, Michael would wipe their memories and start over. The "series forking finale" aired on Thursday, and between that and the fact that Sunday is Groundhog Day (which will always be synonymous for me with the Bill Murray movie), it's got me thinking a lot about space and time. Luckily, over at The Horn Book Guide, we've got a subject listing for just that, so here's my curated list of recommended books about space and time for all age levels. If there are other titles on this topic that you've enjoyed, please share them with us in the comments. Enjoy reading about — as Doctor Who so perfectly described it — that "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey...stuff"!

 

Younger

 

Barnett, Mac  Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

Gr. K-3 | 40 pp. | Candlewick | October, 2014 | Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-6229-5

Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Sam and Dave hope to dig up "something spectacular" but, alas, unearth nothing, repeatedly coming close to (but just missing) precious gems. When their dog, digging for a bone, ruptures the hole's dirt floor, the explorers fall "down, down, down," and land in what appears to be their own yard. Well-chosen words and plentiful white space support readers; cross-section illustrations add visual humor.

 

Macaulay, David  Black and White

Gr. K-3 | 32 pp. | Houghton | April, 1990 | Trade ISBN 0-395-52151-3

A picture book that toys with the reader as it experiments with the concept of time, simultaneity of events, and the question of one story impinging on another. A free-wheeling and free-spirited escape from the ordinary.

 

Mahy, Margaret  Bubble Trouble

Gr. PS | 32 pp. | Clarion | April, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-547-07421-4

Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. When Mabel blows a bubble, it causes trouble in an inimitable Mahy way, surrounding Baby and taking him on an amazing adventure. The text's tongue-stumbling internal rhymes will keep storytellers on their toes, while Dunbar's cut-paper and watercolor illustrations faithfully depict every detail. As suspense builds in both words and pictures, little ones' eyes will be as round as the bubble.

 

Nordling, Lee  BirdCatDog: A Graphic Novel

Gr. K-3 | 32 pp. | Lerner/Graphic Universe | November, 2014 | Library ISBN 978-1-4677-4522-2 | Paper ISBN 978-1-4677-4523-9 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-4524-6

Three Story Books series. Illustrated by Meritzell Bosch. In this innovative and accessible wordless picture book, three pets escape the ennui of domestication for brief, interconnected adventures in the wild. Read across the cartoon panels for the protagonists' parallel plot lines — the bird in the top row; the tabby in the middle row; and the guard dog in the bottom row — or read from top to bottom to "get the whole story."

 

Patricelli, Leslie  Higher! Higher!

Gr. PS | 32 pp. | Candlewicm | March, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-3241-0

A smiling dad pushes a little girl on a swing; with each push, she says, "Higher! Higher!" Higher she goes, flying up to greet a giraffe, a mountain climber, airplane passengers, etc. Finally, she heads into space, where she meets a little green alien at the apex of his own flying swing. Hand-lettering and cheerful cartoonlike acrylics reinforce the book's preschooler-perfect sensibilities.

 

Pilkey, Dav  Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People

Gr. 1-3 | 175 pp. | Scholastic/Blue Sky | September, 2006 | Trade ISBN 0-439-37613-0 | Library ISBN 0-439-90381-5 | Paper ISBN 0-439-37614-9

Harold and George teleport in a purple portable potty/time machine to an alternate universe where they encounter evil versions of themselves and Captain Underpants. Trouble ensues when all five return to their original universe, but with the help of Boxer Boy and Great Granny Girdle (Harold's grandfather and George's grandmother), the day is saved. Both the imaginative writing and comic-book-style illustrations are loaded with humor.

 

Robinson, Christian  Another

Gr. K-3 | 56 pp. | Atheneum | March, 2019 | Trade ISBN 978-1-5344-2167-79 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-5344-2168-4

Robinson offers a smart, sly, and imaginative wordless story about a girl and her cat embarking on a fantastical adventure. The girl follows the cat through a portal into another dimension — and another and another, each time prompting readers to turn the book. After encountering her own double, the girl (plus cat) finally makes it back home. A subtle visual punch line at book's end will reward careful viewers.

 

Santat, Dan  Are We There Yet?

Gr. K-3 | 40 pp. | Little | April, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-0-316-19999-5

Using panels, text bubbles, and vibrant splashes of color in his mixed-media illustrations, Santat sets a family on the road to Grandma's birthday party. But this isn't any old road-trip story. Illustrations guide readers to turn the book upside-down, and the settings grow increasingly outlandish. While the text occasionally veers toward adult-centeredness, the visuals are so inventive that young readers won't mind.

 

Wiesner, David  Sector 7

Gr. K-3 | 48 pp. | Clarion | September, 1999 | Trade ISBN 0-395-74656-6

At the top of the Empire State Building, a friendly cloud appears to a boy and takes him on a tour of Sector 7, a factory-like satellite where clouds are shaped. The boy draws fantastic shapes of sea life, which confound the regular staff members but inspire the clouds. The illustrations for the wordless story are startlingly and powerfully conceived, the fanciful cloud-shapes both funny and elegant.

 

Middle Grade

 

Cirrone, Dorian  The First Last Day

Gr. 4-6 | 232 pp. | Simon/Aladdin | June, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-5813-9 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-5815-3

Haleigh doesn't want summer to end. When she finds paints with directions to "paint your heart's desire," she illustrates her perfect last day and wishes for a do-over. Groundhog Day meets Tuck Everlasting as Haleigh wakes to the same day and tries to change the inevitable, soon understanding some things shouldn't last forever. Engaging and surprising, the novel tackles hard questions about mortality, time, and friendship.

 

Cockcroft, Jason  Counter Clockwise

Gr. 4-6 | 202 pp. | HarperCollins/Tegen | February, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-125554-0 | Library ISBN 978-0-06-125555-7

Trying to avert his wife's death, Nathan's father, Henry, sets Time to an endless repeat of the day she died. To get Time to move forward again, Nathan tries to stop Henry from changing the past. Cockcroft's fable muses on the nature of time and grief. Despite the sober subject, his world is lightly comic while also mingling the cerebral and the emotional.

 

Edge, Christopher  The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

Gr. 4-6 | 168 pp. | Delacorte | May, 2017 | Trade ISBN 978-1-5247-1357-7 | Library ISBN 978-1-5247-1359-1 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-5247-1358-4

Albie Bright, the son of two astrophysicists, knows a thing or two about quantum physics. When his mother dies of cancer, Albie builds a device that allows him to visit alternate universes to find her. Albie's search for his mother remains grounded in his grief in a moving and appealing story framed with compelling science.

 

Evans, Lissa  Wed Wabbit

Gr. 4-6 | 248 pp. | Scholastic/Fickling | February, 2018 | Trade ISBN 978-1-338-18527-0 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-338-18528-7

Ten-year-old Fidge, feeling responsible for her little sister Minnie's serious injury, is sucked into Wimbley Land, the embodiment of Minnie's imaginative life (based on her favorite book and peopled with stuffed toys). Sensible, energetic, resilient Fidge must locate Wed Wabbit, Wimbley Land's new dictator (really Minnie's toy rabbit), and return him to Minnie. This laugh-out-loud, inventive tale wears its messages lightly and keeps its satire and slapstick bouncy.

 

Gaiman, Neil  Fortunately, the Milk

Gr. 4-6 | 113 pp. | HarperCollins/Harper | September, 2013 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-222407-1

Illustrated by Skottie Young. A father goes out for milk for his children's cereal. He's abducted by aliens, escapes from pirates, and saves the universe from destruction. Dad arrives safely home and tells his story to his children, who don't believe him. This is high Brit silliness in the Douglas Adams tradition. Appropriately zany pen-and-ink drawings illustrate this shaggy-dog tale.

 

Giles, Lamar  The Last Last-Day-of-Summer

Gr. 4-6 | 293 pp. | Houghton/Versify | April, 2019 | Trade ISBN 978-1-328-46083-7 | Ebook ISBN 978-0-358-04916-6

Illustrated by Dapo Adeola. Like many kids, African American cousins Otto and Sheed Alston want just one more day of summer vacation. They get their wish when they accidentally freeze time and find their town visited by denizens from the "interdimensional community." Giles presents a page-turning magical fantasy adventure with broad appeal in which his protagonists use their considerable talents to save not only their town but also themselves.

 

Grine, Chris  Time Shifters

Gr. 4-6 | 266 pp. | Scholastic/Graphix | May, 2017 | Trade ISBN 978-0-545-92659-1 | Paper ISBN 978-0-545-92657-7 | Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-92660-7

This graphic novel opens with brothers Luke and Kyle encountering dangerous bullies in the woods. Months after Kyle's death, in the same woods, Luke gets sucked into a parallel universe, where a robotic Abe Lincoln, a ghost, a dinosaur, and a scientist are being pursued for a powerful device. The madcap sci-fi adventure rolls out cinematically in action- and emotion-packed color panels.

 

Hautman, Pete  Otherwood

Gr. 4-6 | 309 pp. | Candlewick | September, 2018 | Trade ISBN 978-0-7636-9071-7

A generations-old secret related to their great-grandfathers splits nine-year-old "soul mates" Stuey and Elly into alternate realities. From here Hautman unfolds a dark tale involving families falling apart, woodlands being destroyed, and suspicion landing on innocent parties, but it's also a tender story of the friends' continuing connection. This is an intricately woven, affecting novel about the power of friendship, the corrosiveness of secrets, and the mysterious possibilities of the world.

 

L'Engle, Madeleine  A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

Gr. 4-6 | 392 pp. | Farrar/Ferguson | October, 2012 | Trade ISBN 978-0-374-38615-3

Adapted by Hope Larson. In her note-perfect graphic-novel adaptation, Larson's affection for the Murry family's first adventure is clear. She skillfully pins down the sensation of traveling through space by tessering, the changing faces of Mrs. Whatsit, and the dedicated care of Aunt Beast. This version is given enough space, panel by panel, to mark every vital plot twist and character realization.

 

Mass, Wendy  11 Birthdays

Gr. 4-6 | 268 pp. | Scholastic | January, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-545-05239-9

Amanda and Leo have the same birthday and always celebrate it together. After a fight the previous year, they throw separate eleventh-birthday parties — then find themselves forced to repeat the day over and over until they can reconcile. It's Groundhog Day for kids, and lots of fun due to deft pacing and sharp characterizations.

 

Reinhardt, Dana  Odessa Again

Gr. 4-6 | 199 pp. | Random/Lamb | May, 2013 | Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73956-6 | Library ISBN 978-0-385-90793-4

Illustrated by Susan Reagan. When Odessa, nine, and her brother have yet another fight, their mother sends her to her room, where she stamps her feet in anger — and finds herself sent back in time, exactly twenty-four hours earlier. Despite the (sometimes uneven) fantasy element, the story is more a domestic tale of divorce, friendship, and family; kids will ponder what they'd re-do in their own lives.

 

Rowling, J. K. , Tiffany, John & Thorne, Jack  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two

Gr. 4-6 | 328 pp. | Scholastic/Levine | July, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-1-338-09913-3

Play by Jack Thorne. This "Special Rehearsal Edition Script" of the 2016 London play includes stage directions and original cast list. Harry's adolescent son Albus and best friend Scorpius Malfoy embark on a mission (using an illegal Time-Turner) to right wrongs in Harry's past. The play is most successful with its characters, indulging the audience's desire to revisit old friends while introducing a new generation of wizards.

 

Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Gr. 4-6 | 435 pp. | Scholastic/Levine | September, 1999 | Trade ISBN 0-439-13635-0

Illustrated by Mary Grandpre. In this third installment in Harry's saga, all the elements that make the formula work are heightened. The characters are particularly interesting, including Harry himself, who in facing the reality of his parents' violent deaths becomes a stronger person and a more complex hero. The Quidditch action is the best yet, the Hogwarts classes are inventive and entertaining, and there's a nifty bit of time manipulation in the exciting climax.

 

Stead, Rebecca  When You Reach Me

Gr. 4-6 | 200 pp. | Random/Lamb | July, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73742-5 | Library ISBN 978-0-385-90664-7

Sixth grader Miranda's life is an ordinary round of family and school. But when she starts receiving anonymous notes that seem to foretell the future, it's clear that all is not as it seems. The story's revelations are startling and satisfying but quietly made. Their reverberations give plenty of impetus for readers to go back and catch what was missed.

 

Teague, Mark  The Doom Machine

Gr. 4-6 | 343 pp. | Scholastic/Blue Sky | October, 2009 | Trade ISBN 978-0-545-15142-9

Teague puts a campy spin on intergalactic war. In 1956, skreeps (spiderlike aliens) kidnap Bud Creedle, inventor of a "dimensional field destabilizer" that cuts through the space-time continuum. The burden of saving Earth falls to juvenile delinquent Jack and budding scientist Isadora; the story's action is fast and furious. Teague's visual writing and numerous black-and-white illustrations help readers picture the alien assortment.

 

Trevayne, Emma  Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Gr. 4-6 | 306 pp. | Simon | May, 2014 | Trade ISBN 978-1-4424-9877-8 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-9880-8

Illustrated by Glenn Thomas. In Victorian London, Jack enters a door beneath Big Ben and finds himself in an alternate city, populated by people and creatures who are at least partly mechanical. Jack has been lured there intentionally: the Lady of Londinium needs a new "son" (think the fairy queen in "Tam Lin"). The power of loyalty and friendship drives the story to a rousing conclusion.

 

Young Adult

 

Brody, Jessica  A Week of Mondays

454 pp. | Farrar | August, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-0-374-38270-4 | Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-38272-8

After sixteen-year-old Ellison suffers a comically unfortunate Monday, she's granted a chance to do it over again. And again. She's convinced that preventing her musician boyfriend from breaking it off will stop the cycle; she tweaks her choices and, ultimately, her persona to little avail. It's a familiar premise, but Ellie's strong, humorous voice lends considerable charm to this compulsively readable romantic comedy.

 

Cashore, Kristin  Jane, Unlimited

454 pp. | Penguin/Dawson | September, 2017 | Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-4149-2

An old acquaintance invites orphaned Jane to her family's exotic island mansion. What's going on? Jane wonders, watching the household prepare for a gala and noting the priceless art. The story then splits into five alternate scenarios; in parallel narratives, Jane moves between multiverses of surreality, sci-fi, and art theft. Clues to the story's fantastical nature are playful and sly, and Cashore's inventiveness is unflagging.

 

Gray, Claudia  A Thousand Pieces of You

360 pp. | HarperTeen | November, 2014 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-227896-8

When Marguerite's physicist father is murdered, she must use her parents' invention, the Firebird, to chase Paul, his ex-protégé and killer, through parallel dimensions. When she meets other versions of Paul, however, she begins to question his guilt. Excellently paced and filled with satisfying twists, this sci-fi thriller distinguishes itself with a thoughtful examination of loss, love, and moral ambiguity.

 

Hillyer, Lexa  Proof of Forever

345 pp. | HarperTeen | June, 2015 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-233037-6

Four estranged friends are transported back in time when they enter a photo booth at their summer-camp reunion, forcing each girl to reconcile who she used to be with who she became. Hillyer covers a vast array of life events — from first love to coming out to the death of a friend — and her protagonists are skillfully drawn.

 

Jones, Diana Wynne  The Homeward Bounders

265 pp. | Greenwillow | May, 2002 | Trade ISBN 0-06-029886-3 | Reissue, 1981

Jamie describes his discovery of mysterious hooded figures playing a game. After being told he is "now a discard," Jamie is catapulted out of his world and compelled to wander through a series of other worlds. In this welcome reissue, the author combines elements of science fiction, folklore, and mythology to create a fantasy with overtones of allegory.

 

Lawson, Shandy  The Loop

201 pp. | Hyperion | April, 2013 | Trade ISBN 978-1-4231-6089-2

Stuck in a time loop, New Orleans teen couple Ben and Maggie relive meeting each other and their violent deaths over and over. Each time they remember just a little more and try to outmaneuver their fates. Though the mechanics of the time loop are unclear, the fast pace and action-movie qualities make for a quick and appealing read.

 

Mlynowski, Sarah  Gimme a Call

303 pp. | Delacorte | April, 2010 | Trade ISBN 978-0-385-73588-9 | Library ISBN 978-0-385-90574-9

After dropping her cell phone in a fountain, high school senior Devi is magically able to call her freshman-year self. Older Devi instructs younger Devi on her every move, hoping she can change the present concerning boys, friends, and school. Altering the past has major consequences and doesn't guarantee happiness for either Devi. Though occasionally confusing, this modern twist on a wishing well has broad appeal.

 

Oliver, Lauren  Before I Fall

474 pp. | HarperCollins/Harper | March, 2010 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-172680-4

Sam relives the last day of her life seven times, hoping to make amends with the family she's neglected and the schoolmates she and her friends have tormented. With each additional final day, Sam makes new mistakes and discoveries that bring her closer to redemption. This promising debut imbues small memories — a word, a joke, a kiss — with transformative power.

 

Peevyhouse, Parker  Where Futures End

291 pp. | Penguin/Dawson | February, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-0-8037-4160-7

Five interrelated stories, each set at a different point in Earth's future, explore the power of social media, economic inequity, and environmental decay over time. When the first story's protagonist discovers how to travel to a utopian alternate universe, the repercussions ripple forward into the other stories. Compelling characters, literary allusions, challenging adventures, and thought-provoking concepts make this is a smart science-fiction puzzle for tenacious readers.

 

Pessl, Marisha  Neverworld Wake

327 pp. | Delacorte | June, 2018 | Trade ISBN 978-0-399-55392-9 | Library ISBN 978-0-399-55393-6 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-399-55395-0

A year after her charismatic boyfriend dies mysteriously, Bea visits an isolated mansion to reunite with their splintered group of prep-school friends. There, the teens become caught between life and death; until they can choose one among them to live, they are all doomed to repeat the same day forever. A macabre, twisting premise and troubled characters give this suspenseful supernatural novel an intense, dark tone.

 

Reynolds, Justin A.  Opposite of Always

457 pp. | HarperCollins/Tegen | March, 2019 | Trade ISBN 978-0-06-274837-9 | Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-274839-3

In this contemporary-set, time-bending love story, African American teens Jack (a high school senior) and Kate (a college freshman) meet at a party and fall in love. After Kate dies of complications from sickle cell disease, Jack begins to travel back in time over and over trying to save her. Jack is an everyday hero readers will root for as Reynolds spins this poignant, dizzying tale of love and loss.

 

Sedgwick, Marcus  The Ghosts of Heaven

360 pp. | Roaring Brook | January, 2015 | Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-125-8 | Paper ISBN 978-1-250-07367-9 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-62672-126-5

Four related stories range chronologically from the prehistoric past, to Britain at the end of the witch hunts, to an early-twentieth-century Long Island insane asylum, and finally to a spacecraft in the distant future. In each, the image of a spiral is associated with violence and horror. Satisfyingly brain-teasing conceptual elements help compensate for the distant narrative voice and stiff characters.

 

Shusterman, Neal  Everlost

315 pp. | Simon | October, 2006 | Trade ISBN 0-689-87237-2

Skinjacker Trilogy series. Allie and Nick wind up in "Everlost" after they're killed in a two-car collision. They find themselves in a forest, watched over by a boy who teaches them a few key points: e.g., always keep moving to avoid sinking through the earth. The action-packed, fully developed plot moves quickly; the characters grow and change as they cope with their new existence.

 

Vande Velde, Vivian  23 Minutes

176 pp. | Boyds | April, 2016 | Trade ISBN 978-1-62979-441-9 | Ebook ISBN 978-1-62979-561-4

Fifteen-year-old Zoe stumbles upon an armed bank robbery. Attempting to alter the violent course of events, Zoe uses her ability to travel twenty-three minutes back in time, which she can only do ten times before the events become permanent. Each re-do has its own victims and complications, and reveals more backstory for everyone involved. A riveting reflection on ethical dilemmas.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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