Around the Clock

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Around the Clock Book Poster Image
Wacky walk through a day in the life of 23 quirky kids.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Starting at 6 a.m., Around the Clock peeks in on 23 kids over 24 hours. Many of their activities are time-appropriate (eating lunch, brushing teeth, dreaming in bed). Overnight, their activities are especially silly: tending a moonlit garden, playing drums, and eating cake. 

 

Positive Messages

People have unique habits, hobbies, joys, fears, and dreams.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A few kids show admirable qualities -- trying to set the table, caring for a garden -- but they're far outnumbered by kids causing mischief. Parents are minimally present, seen coaxing a child to eat, fetching water at bedtime, and looking aghast at a hole dug in the yard.

 

Violence & Scariness

Nothing significant. One girl watches a monster clutching a woman on TV, another has a tantrum.

 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the silly kids in Roz Chast's Around the Clock aren't particularly well-behaved. Even when they mean well, they skew toward disruptive, such as the well-intentioned boy proud of his "perfect" table, set with a saw and hammer among the everyday forks and knives. Sensitive kids might be unsettled by the unseen consequences for the more problematic behavior. Provocative and absurd humor is likely to strike a chord with kids.

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What's the story?

Peek into the lives of 23 eccentric kids over the course of a day, hour by hour. The day starts at 6 a.m. with Pete, who's drinking from his favorite cup amid a wrecked, sticky mess of a kitchen. As the day goes on, we stop in on Don, digging a hole to France in his fanciest pants, Sophie sobbing over liver surprise for dinner, Dave working on his sock museum, and John Paul fretting over wires in his bedroom wall. The book closes with Pete again, awakening from a dream that gives a nod to Maurice Sendak's surreal best.

Is it any good?

Famed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's quirky characters are always a touch off-kilter; even when they're happy, they seem a bit manic. Her rhyming text is spare and simple with a few good vocabulary words ("chartreuse," "morsel") sprinkled in. 

Chast's frenetic artwork is the heart of this picture book, but it may not appeal to every child (or parent). The characters are scaled big and look like teens and adults, making it more difficult for young ones to relate to them, and the dense artwork might overwhelm some. And the sly humor isn't to everyone's taste. But many more will enjoy the giddy style and savor the abundant humorous touches in each one- and two-page illustration. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how they think other people's days are similar to or different from their own. What do parents do while children are asleep? How does your morning routine compare with your teacher's, or your best friend's, or a relative's?

  • Are there any worries that keep you up in the middle of the night?

  • Try making a 24-hour book depicting your own day.

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