Review of A Stopwatch from Grampa

A Stopwatch from Grampa
by Loretta Garbutt; illus. by Carmen Mok
Primary    Kids Can    40 pp.
4/20    978-1-5253-0144-5    $17.99

“When summer started, I got Grampa’s stopwatch. I don’t want his stopwatch. I want him.” The accompanying illustration shows a child sitting all alone on a porch swing, bereft. We next see scenes from the past in illustrations set like snapshots on the page; these depict the child and Grampa’s close relationship as they enjoy their mutual love of timing things with the stopwatch: how long it takes to eat three oatmeal cookies, or bubblegum ice cream (and how many seconds the subsequent brain freeze lasts); how long it takes for the child to race to the end of the street and back, or for a caterpillar to crawl up the child’s leg. Now, without Grampa, the youngster is angry (drawing harshly scribbled pictures of monsters) and depressed (losing interest in ordinary activities). The watch is thrown into a drawer and forgotten. Time passes, and one day the child finds the stopwatch and begins timing things again. “The watch…makes me think of all the things we used to time together. Remembering him feels good…Like he is still here with me.” Without being the least bit didactic, the book takes readers through the stages of grief — and in a heart-tugging ending, the protagonist moves forward in the healing process to introduce someone new, a younger sibling, to the pleasures of using Grampa’s stopwatch. Details in both the text and the child-friendly, digitally produced art (including the empathetic, loyal family dog and homemade — by Dad — heart-shaped cookies) are perfectly pitched for the audience.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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