Read any great children’s books lately? Not to brag, but I have. A perk of being a walker in a neighborhood of stoops is that you can build an eclectic book collection in no time. People put books out in boxes all the time, and I happily grab the ones that spark my interest.
I found Robert McCloskey’s Time of Wonder, a 1958 Caldecott winner, on a neighbor’s stoop just before it started to rain. Lucky me, it was just one of those days where the universe wants you to have a treat. I would have also accepted a GF sticky bun, but this book was even better. The edition I picked up is from 1977.
The story is set on a small island in Maine. We begin just before a spring shower – the million splashes of raindrops – and experience life here through a child’s activities and explorations.
McCloskey takes us through the seasons. There’s cliff jumping in summer –
– starry nights throughout and then the beginnings of hurricane season, telling us it’s time to go home til next spring.
The story has a gentleness to it that lends itself to many re-readings whether you’ve had a hard day, happy day or the mind needs a temporary escape from urban life. It reminded me of the books my grade school librarian, Mrs. Caldwell, read to us. The narrative is as pure and simple as it gets, the high points of life on an island. There are no character arcs or high stakes. The greatest moment of drama is a stormy night when the door flies open (Ooops, spoiler).
The heart of the story is about that time in life when you’re open, when nature is all the company you need. And should other kids happen to be around you’ll be first in line to jump off rocks and hope it’s not too shallow.
This is a perfect story for new readers, or young ones who love to look at illustrations. McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight picture books half of which are set in Maine. This is the first book of his I’ve come across and I’m glad I found it. As my generous neighbors probably don’t take giveaway requests like the book jukeboxes I wish they were, I’m going to see about hunting down older editions of his other books. Something about the style just feels right on soft, worn pages.