The 13 Clocks

Classic reprint full of wordplay and silly humor.

What parents need to know

Violence & scariness

Mentions of a boy's eye put out by a bird, people killed by sword and fed to geese.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is little to be concerned about here, aside from some non-graphic references to people being killed and fed to geese.

What's the story?

Prince Zorn of Zorna wishes to win the hand of Princess Saralinda. But her evil uncle, the Duke, who has stopped all the clocks in his castle, gives all her suitors impossible tasks to perform, and then kills them when they fail (or even when they say something that offends him). Prince Zorn does have the help of a magical creature called the Golux, but the Golux is often so confused that his help may not be all that helpful.

Is it any good?


The New York Review of Books, as part of the estimable "Children's Collection" of reprints of forgotten classics, brings a treasure back to life with their hardcover reproduction of the original edition of THE 13 CLOCKS, with illustrations by Marc Simont, and a new forward by Neil Gaiman. This tongue-in-cheek fairytale is simply loaded with wit and wordplay, sophisticated enough to keep adults engaged while children enjoy the story. The high level of vocabulary and clever use of language make this work better as a read-aloud than a read-alone for elementary-age kids, an experience adults will enjoy as much as their children.

Thurber, and his New Yorker contemporary E.B. White wrote children's books that are just different from anything else in the field. Perhaps it's their combination of verbal sophistication and quirky humor, perhaps just the oddly skewed view of the world that working at Ross' magazine might entail. But whatever it is, it has enabled them to stand the test of time. The 13 Clocks may not be to every modern child's taste, but for those who enjoy a bit of clever humor and verbal playfulness, it will be a treat.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the extensive wordplay. Can you find hidden rhymes? Which words did the author make up? Do they sound like they fit the situation and meaning? Can you find some of his weirder similes and metaphors?

Book details

Author:James Thurber
Illustrator:Marc Simont
Genre:Fairy Tale
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:New York Review of Books
Publication date:January 1, 1950
Number of pages:124
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8
Read alone:9

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 7 years old February 18, 2010
age 7+

tic-toc 13X

I loved 13 Clocks because it was interesting and it didn't look good at first but it turned out to be an excellent book. It had many riddles and twists that I liked. The funniest character was the Golux. He said weird things like that he can feel things he can't touch and he can touch things he can't feel.
Parent of a 7 year old Written byElisa Q January 27, 2010
age 17+

It's pretty gross....

Eye got put by a bird?! Killed and sword and fed to geese? These are pretty gross...
What other families should know
Too much violence


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