In Review: The Lost Track of Time

An enjoyable read that will spur young readers to take the time to imagine. Highest possible recommendation.

The Lost Track of Time by Paige Britt

Drawings by Lee White

Published by Scholastic Press on April 1, 2015. Hardcover of 306 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7.

The cover: Like Dorothy Gale, Penelope is in a strange land. She’s standing atop a giant clock face, with the base of the hands snarling at her. A lone sign points her to go “This Way”, but what awaits her? The worry is plain on her face, though a new friend is close at hand, as Dill can be seen peering from behind a tree. The picture I’m using in this review does not do justice to the entire illustration, as the book is fairly square and I wanted to show an image of the two leads. Superior artwork on this jacket by Lee White, with the book jacket being designed by Marijka Kostiw. This is the perfect illustration to show Penelope’s adventure at the beginning. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the inside front cover jacket, “Penelope is running out of time! She dreams of being a writer, but how can she pursue her passion when her mother schedules every minute of her life? And how will she ever prove that writing is worthwhile if her mother keeps telling her to ‘get busy!’ and ‘be more productive’? Then one day, Penelope discovers a hole in her schedule — an entire day completely unplanned! — and she mysteriously falls into it. What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the Realm of Possibility, where Penelope sets out to find and free the Great Moodler, the one person who may have the answers she seeks. Along the way, she must face an army of Clockworkers, battle the evil Chronos, take a daring Flight of Fancy, and save herself from the grip of time.” This summary makes it seem that this will be a literary version of Alice in Wonderland where the protagonist is fighting against time to be who she wants to be. I’m all for that! Overall grade: A-

The illustrations: Beautiful work throughout by Lee White. The size of his works are as small as corner and are as large as a double-paged spread. His work has the perfect amount of whimsy for this novel, showing Penelope encountering the strange and scary, with new friend Dill always there to lend a hand. I was particularly taken with the Coo-Coo Bird, which, if left to my own imagination, would have been a short, squat little thing, but White’s version of this creature is spectacular and elevated my poor mental picture to soaring heights. And his Dill is delight, reminding me of Danny Kaye in a Rankin Bass feature. This is the type of work that books of fancy deserve and need to have to propel the imaginations of readers. Overall grade: A+

The characters: Penelope is a middle schooler who wants to be a writer, but her mother won’t have that, having planned every minute of this girl’s summer. When she has a hole in her schedule, like Alice, she falls into it and learns something about herself. I was pleased to see that she’s very different than Alice or Dorothy, in that she’s more than willing to embrace the fantasy and in the process realize that dreams can make one strong. She has two frightening moments: one in the woods (which are always trouble in fantasies) and in the City in one of Chronos’ holes. Using her imagination and love of words she overcomes all obstacles. Dill is a fantastic companion for Penelope on her quest. He provides information about where they’re going and who and what they encounter on their way. He’s a former explorer who’s lost his way, but readers know that if Penelope is successful, Dill will turn out okay. There’s a good creepy moment toward the end of the novel when Dill appears to have been converted into a Clockworker, but the reason given for his escaping that fate was in line for his character and very funny. The big bad is Chronos, a business suited little man who commands the city to not waste any time on imagination, because there’s work to do. When has an adult not said this to a child? I found portions of myself within this monster, and I’m glad Britt brought them to light for my own growth! There are several individuals encountered on the trip to the city, with my favorite being the Wild Bore. He was hilarious! Every character in this book is a wonderful addition to children’s literature and fantasy. Overall grade: A+

The settings: Rather than spoil the specifics of each setting, I’m going to be vague and just state what I enjoyed. I loved Dill’s house, the woods, the Coo-Coo’s home, the city, and the interiors of the mighty clock where Penelope and Dill end up working. They were fantastic! Overall grade: A+

The action: Britt’s created a wonderful world where something magical or threatening could be around any corner or tree, and they often are. Having this tension throughout will keep readers on pins and needles to see what’s going to happen next. I couldn’t stop once I began because I wanted to know what was just over the horizon. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: It’s very similar to The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I still enjoyed it. It couldn’t end any other way, though I was impressed that Britt stops it when she does, rather than have a reunion scene. It stops just when it should. Overall grade: A

The final line: Make the time for someone you know to read this and make time for yourself to enter this world. An enjoyable read that will spur young readers to take the time to imagine and will alter adults that time must always be taken to just imagine what if? Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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