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Time Pieces Hardcover – November 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This uneven work from the late Hamilton juxtaposes a contemporary framework story about young Valena, during the summer before she enters sixth grade, with a number of interconnected " `reckons,'... stories told of past times" that fill in some of the history of how her family came to Ohio. Valena's mother, Harriet, relates these tales of times past, which at their best recall the mythic and inspirational qualities of the author's The People Could Fly-especially the story of tiny Tunny Maud, who is brought to Rothford Plantation (one "Occupant," as Harriet calls the captives held on the plantation, believes that Tunny Maud is a Pygmy from Batswa). Tunny Maud dances "to the leaf shadows in the forest" and "could move on her hands as well as her feet." Later, the tiny woman figures prominently in a reckon about Harriet's father, Graw Luke, who crosses the Ohio River with his mother and makes a pilgrimage to Maud Free, a town established by Tunny Maud (who, with the help of her master's son, escaped to freedom). But the contemporary story used to set up these few tales comes across as sketchy, especially in contrast with the reckons, which are polished like prized gems that are passed down from one generation to the next. Ages 10-14.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6-In this semiautobiographical novel, Hamilton tells the story of Valena, who lives in rural Ohio with her parents, two older siblings, and a beloved dog; a large extended family lives nearby. This summer, in between fifth and sixth grades, she survives a tornado; takes a trip to the circus to see an enormous, disfigured gorilla; and is misunderstood when she accidentally takes something from her Great-Aunt Peavy. Her entire family suffers a loss as well, and she learns that time and growing up mean constant change. Valena's present is set against her family's past, and the heart of the book is the story she hears of her Great-Grandfather's crossing to freedom on the Underground Railroad, a story that is told-and heard-in pieces. Also fascinating is the account of a pygmy woman brought from Africa on a slave ship, whose future is intertwined with that of Valena's family. Hamilton knows how mysterious the unknown can be to children, and has a superb ear for dialogue. Some elements of the story of Valena's visit to an unpleasant schoolteacher seem a bit puzzling, and a few phrases here and there don't have the author's usual polish. But, more often, the simplicity and directness of the language serve the subject matter beautifully. The book gets off to a quiet start, and some children may need an adult introduction. They will find it well worth it, if only for the humor and suspense in many of the tales.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Lexile Measure: 400L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Sky Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590288814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590288811
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,259,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Virginia Esther Hamilton was born, as she said, "on the outer edge of the Great Depression," on March 12, 1934. The youngest of five children of Kenneth James and Etta Belle Perry Hamilton, Virginia grew up amid a large extended family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The farmlands of southwestern Ohio had been home to her mother's family since the late 1850s, when Virginia's grandfather, Levi Perry, was brought into the state as an infant via the Underground Railroad.

Virginia graduated at the top of her high-school class and received a full scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs. In 1956, she transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus and majored in literature and creative writing. She moved to New York City in 1958, working as a museum receptionist, cost accountant, and nightclub singer, while she pursued her dream of being a published writer. She studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research under Hiram Haydn, one of the founders of Atheneum Press.

It was also in New York that Virginia met poet Arnold Adoff. They were married in 1960. Arnold worked as a teacher, and Virginia was able to devote her full attention to writing, at least until daughter Leigh was born in 1963 and son Jaime in 1967. In 1969, Virginia and Arnold built their "dream home" in Yellow Springs, on the last remaining acres of the old Hamilton/Perry family farm, and settled into a life of serious literary work and achievement.

In her lifetime, Virginia wrote and published 41 books in multiple genres that spanned picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, realistic novels and biography. Woven into her books is a deep concern with memory, tradition, and generational legacy, especially as they helped define the lives of African Americans. Virginia described her work as "Liberation Literature." She won every major award in youth literature.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Deftly written by the talented author Virginia Hamilton (whose Children's Literature awards include the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the Newberry Medal, and the Coretta Scott King Award), Time Pieces: The Book Of Times is an audiobook coming-of-age story for young people. An eleven-year-old African-American girl named Valena lives with her family in rural Ohio; as she deals with daily events, the threat of a tornado, the excitement of going to a circus, and the oppressive pallor of racism, she also listens to her mother's tales of her family's proud history. A remarkable story of the importance of family ties and taking pride in one's heritage, skillfully narrated by Lisa Renee Pitts. 3 CDs, unabridged, tracks every 3 minutes for easy bookmarking.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Aletheia Knights on June 21, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are novels that challenge the mind and heart, that take you deep into the individual experience and show you the world in a delightfully fresh, and yet startlingly familiar, way. The pretentiously named "Time Pieces: The Book of Times" is not one of these novels, although it clearly aspires to be. Probably the best thing I could say about this book is that I didn't realize until it was over just how much I'd disliked it.

I've read several of Virginia Hamilton's novels now, and I've given up hoping that I might ever see something resembling a plot in her fiction. That's fine; some of the finest fiction, particularly in the bildungsroman genre which seems to be Hamilton's specialty, is loosely plotted at best, focusing rather on the subtleties of character, and often a richly realized setting as well. Again, in this regard, "Time Pieces" falls short. I wanted to like Valena. I really did. But there was little to like about her in the beginning, and she became even more inconsistent, petulant, and neurotic as the novel progressed. In the first chapter, she's terrified of her mother's shadow. In the second chapter, she sees the aurora borealis and goes nearly catatonic, even after her uncle has explained that it is a harmless natural phenomenon. Small incidents in her life - a visit to an offensive teacher, a false accusation of stealing - are treated as though they were crucially important, then never resolved and never mentioned again. Midway through the summer she becomes clingy and decides she hates school, for no apparent reason other than that she witnessed her sister suffering an alarming, but not permanently damaging, eye injury.
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