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The Time Book: A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks Hardcover – May 12, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—Conversational text, whimsical mixed-media artwork, and elegant book design combine to present an informative and entertaining romp through time. Succinct chapters treat a broad spectrum of subjects, beginning with the age-old human interest in measuring time, timekeeping in nature (from periodical cicadas to circadian rhythms), speculation about why early humans quantified regular changes in the world around them (Jenkins does a good job of explaining "why calendars and religion are almost always closely linked"), and the challenges of basing a calendar on astronomical observations. The story continues with descriptions of ancient calendars, the development of the Gregorian calendar, and the evolution of timekeeping devices. The final chapter briefly explains Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and introduces the possibility (and resulting chronological oddities) of traveling "at nearly the speed of light." Quite a lot of territory is covered here, but the clear, lively writing will keep readers focused, and the broad approach presents an interesting overview and invites youngsters to explore topics in further detail. Holland's precise-looking collages blend images of clocks, cultural sites, important locales, historical figures, and more to support the narrative while imaginatively interpreting the concepts and adding touches of humor. The fun continues in the layout, as the text is often shaped (like a pyramid or a planet) to echo the illustrations. Kids will find time flying as they pore over this book.—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal END
This diverting picture book addresses all manner of head-scratching quandaries kids will likely have about the concept of time: Why is it measured in such seemingly random units? When did keeping precise time become so important? And wait, what is time, anyway? It’s a pretty heady subject, all right, but Jenkins and Holland go a long way toward making the investigation fun without shirking any thought-provoking dilemmas. Beginning with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world, moving into early calendar-keeping and astronomy, and finishing with rigorous scientific inquiry (and even a succinct explanation of relativity), the text traverses Egyptian, Mayan, Chinese, Greek, and European history, explaining any number of little irregularities along the way. The mixed-media cut-illustration artwork oscillates between helpful illuminations of the text and inspired Monty Python–esque lunacy, as in the opening scene of top-hatted gentlemen riding winged clocks through the sky to convey time flying when you’re having fun. For kids inspired by pondering and excited by paradoxes, this book is as good an example as anything. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman
Top customer reviews
Time is a concept that is measured not only by humans. "...it seems that most, perhaps all, other living things have ways of measuring time." There are several interesting experimental results from the natural world which illustrate animals and plants measure time and react to their world based on their perception of time.
In many parts of the world, great effort was invested in developing calendars. The author asserts that the close link between calendars and religion was intended so that humans could gain power to influence their destinies and their Gods. I struggled with the author's explanation for the origin of a Sabbath day and disagree with the School Library Journal review that the author does a good job of linking calendars and religion. Chapter six states that the superstitions of the ancient Assyrians with regard to the phases of the moon is the reason why a majority of religions in the world today set aside one day a week for worship. While many aspects of time and calendars can be quantified using the scientific method, the meaning of time in the lives of people is difficult at best to convey to a reader in late elementary or early middle school (3rd grade to 7th grade). The author attempts to convey the cultural significance of time using a timeline that, while defensible from the standpoint of popular scholarship, rings hollow from the standpoint of collective human experience. The reader has been warned that this book waxes philosophical at times, and on the subject of calendars and religion the author is floundering in deep water.
The text provides engaging details about the difficulties of merging a lunar and solar calendar--but absent clear illustrations a reader without prior exposure to science and astronomy will be spinning in a sea of equinoxes, ellipses, and phases of the moon.
Measurement of hours and minutes is discussed in a manner well suited to the audience--but without the support of clear detailed illustrations, the first time reader will come away feeling unenlightened.
John Harrison is given credit for his work at making an accurate sea clock--clearly the author has done his homework. It would have been great if the book included a bibliography to allow curious students to follow-up on the several tantalizing threads that could only be touched upon in the main chapters, for instance the story of longitude.
Coordinated universal time, the role of railroads, atomic clocks and relativity get appropriate credit and detail in this fascinating story of the development of time in the modern world.
At the end of Chapter Nine the author asks "despite all this, do we really understand time at all?" Not just the lead-in to the chapter on relativity, it is also a good point to review the value this book brings to the discussion of time and our further understanding.