Format: Picture book
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Illustrator: Kady MacDonald Denton
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March, 2007)
I don’t know about you, but I’m forever saying things like “Five minutes to bedtime,” “I’ll be off the phone in thirty seconds; please be patient,” and “Grammie is coming to visit us in two weeks!” But anyone who has tried to get a preschooler out the door in a timely fashion knows that children are not born with an innate sense of time. So how does a child come to learn the difference between a second, a minute, and a week? How do they unravel the mystery of how we track time? If they’re lucky, they’ll learn these secrets, or at least begin to learn them, through Hazel Hutchins’ wonderful book A Second is a Hiccup.
How long is a second? “A second / is a hiccup — / The time it takes / To kiss your mom / Or jump a rope / Or turn around.” With bouncy rhymes and lively watercolour illustrations, the author and illustrator take the reader from seconds to minutes to days to weeks to months to years…and finally to the measure of a childhood: “Changes come and changes go / Round and round the years you’ll grow / Till you’re bigger, till you’re bolder / Till you’re ever so much older / And through all the hours and days / As time unfolds in all its ways / You will be loved — / As surely as / A second /is a hiccup.”
The book introduces the beginnings of some basic math and time concepts for children who are starting school. The explanations in this book are more metaphorical than concrete, however, so children who are actually studying units of time in school may not find that the words match what they are learning. I hope very much that it will give them a different perspective on time and its passage, though, so that perhaps they will learn that a minute is not just sixty seconds but “A happy, hoppy little song / Chorus, verses, not too long / Just enough to fill / A minute.”
Parents will enjoy this book as much as their kids. Every time I read it I am made even more keenly aware of how quickly the seconds and minutes with my young children are slipping by. “Sunshine, snow and rain and squall / Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall / Twigs on trees grow leaves and peaches / See how far a whole year reaches.” And how quickly it zips by.