A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Time Fetch is a light fantasy in which four middle schoolers from different backgrounds come together to save the day. Readers will get a science and folklore lesson about the nature of time and the solstice as the main characters try to keep the world from turning to nothingness. One character is imprisoned and chased by hags, and three kids try not to watch as two panthers fight to the death (the only gory moment, and it's brief). There's a mention of Brigit's baby brother dying in his sleep and how the whole family is in mourning; Brigit stops talking after the event. Expect a handful of substitutes for swear words like "twerpy bleepsters" and some talk of drinking and naked sacrifice as a teacher explains Greek mythology regarding the solstice -- as close as you'll get to any real mature content in this light fantasy.
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What's the story?
Edward is about to be late for school and still doesn't have his glacial rock to bring to Mr. Ross' science class. On his way to the bus he runs through his Aunt Kit's garden and unearths something shaped like a rock, but it's not like anything formed by a glacier. It's a Time Fetch, with winged creatures that steal small bits of time sealed up inside it, waiting to be collected by a Keeper. As soon as Edward gets to school with his prize, things start to get a little strange. The late-December wind kicks up whenever his rock is visible, and classmates -- like that annoying loud-mouth Feenix; Danton, the class jock; and Brigit, a new girl who doesn't speak -- are strangely drawn to it. Feenix is so attracted to the Time Fetch that she runs off with it directly into Prospect Park. The other three follow but are turned around in a strange fit of forgetfulness: What were they doing there? Where were they going? That leaves Feenix in some serious trouble when she happens upon a certain gumdrop- and caramel-coated house filled with hags who know the Fetch's power and want some for themselves. But tapping into the stone has a serious cost, and may bring the whole fabric of time into a state of chaos or worse. And as they approach the winter solstice, Aunt Kit reminds Edward, more forces of chaos are set to be unleashed. Beware of the Unraveler.
Is it any good?
Clever touches in THE TIME FETCH make this light fantasy worth a read. The mythology of the Time Fetch itself is very intriguing. Aunt Kit and Mr. Ross are great adult characters, both lending real wisdom to the four main characters. Mr. Ross' tangent-prone lectures will make readers wish they could pull up a lab stool and hang out for a while. And it's fun to be kept guessing about how much Aunt Kit knows about what's to come -- the shopping list she gives Brigit is an ingenious little way to tie the last act of the story together.
But just as time starts to unravel all around the young characters, some elements feel frayed as well. Edward, Feenix, Danton, and Brigit need a little more depth as characters; we don't even learn their age or what grade they're in. for starters. And it's hard to tell the story is about all four of them until too far into the book. Then there's the mythology of the Time Fetch that, after a great opener, gets left on the back burner. If you're already talking about the nature of time, readers can handle more complexity than the visual on the cover of flies gobbling it up. Where did they come from? Why? It keeps the story light and actiony, but a little more explanation would definitely be worth readers', ahem, time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about time and the solstice as Mr. Ross sees it and as Aunt Kit sees it. Do you like the scientific explanation or the folkloric explanation more? Or do you prefer a little of both?
Why are stories about time so popular in science fiction and fantasy? What other books have you read that explore the nature of time?
How much does Aunt Kit know about what's about to happen? What's on the shopping list she gives Brigit and why? What else does she give the foursome? What's so special about her solstice tree?
- Author: Amy Herrick
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
- Publication date: August 27, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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