Friday, June 20, 2014

A Map of Time

"To her infinite mortification, Sophia had no internal clock," thinks 13-year-old Sophia Tims, the heroine of S.E. Grove's debut novel, The Glass Sentence. The author examines the nature of time and memory in terms that an 8- and 9-year-old can understand. Children know how chores seem to last forever, and a great hours-long neighborhood game of stickball flashes by. Sophia's way of coping may well inspire readers' own methods of time trekking.

Sophia finds her lack of internal clock mortifying because her uncle is the world's finest cartologist, able to make and read maps from all eras. Ever since the Great Disruption, time has settled differently in different parts of the world. Her parents (who disappeared 10 years ago on an expedition) also possess a keen sense of time. But for Sophia, hours can go by undetected, and she also has trouble gauging the time that's lapsed between events.

She copes by creating elaborate accordion-style calendars. She marks all of the important things that happen on that date. At a glance, she can see when something of significance to her occurred, and how much time has gone by since then.

Think of the applications for a child reader. What fun to browse a variety of calendars and for a child to experiment with the tracking method that works best for him or her. They can use the traditional month-at-a-glance calendar, a week-long track, or a daily calendar; tape them together vertically or horizontally; enlarge it on a photocopier or shrink it down. They can draw pictures on each day to indicate someone new they've met, a family reunion, a baby-sitting job or a work shift. It can be as simple or as sophisticated as they want it to be.

If they already use a journal, Sophia's tracking system might spark other ideas of what to include--drawings, collage, scraps of paper. Sophia's way of coping with her "mortification" is not so different from Chuck Close's 10-foot-long illustrated map of Lewis and Clark's expedition in Chuck Close: Face Book, his strategy for learning history in school. Readers may be inspired by Sophia to create a timeline of their own lives that (literally) unfolds, a map of time and events of significance chiefly to its maker.

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