A young boy’s “grampa” used a stopwatch to time everything: “1 minute, 58 seconds” to eat an ice cream cone; “7 minutes, 22 seconds” for a caterpillar to climb the boy’s leg. But now, though it goes unstated, grandpa has passed away, and the boy is left with only the stopwatch, a painful reminder of loss. In his grief, the boy hides it away in his dresser drawer, but when he rediscovers it a year later, the soothing salve of time has changed the associated memories from painful to comforting. “The watch sounds like Grampa. It makes me think of all the things we used to time together.” Garbutt skillfully focuses a story with an important, poignant message around an item that perfectly captures a grandfather figure, a mechanical stopwatch: simple, even old-fashioned, but an object that makes a playful game of even the normal and mundane. For young readers struggling with grief, her story and Mok’s illustrations include opportunities to open up the story to discussion, like when the grandson in his grief scribbles out a picture and experiences a lack of interest in school and friends, or in a nuanced reference to guilt and regret: “Maybe I shouldn’t have told Grampa he snored like a dinosaur.” Mok’s color and graphite pencil illustrations are simple with a fittingly soft color palette.
Loretta Garbutt is a children’s bookseller and voice actor based in Toronto, Ontario. She has played the voice of Valerie on the beloved children’s television series Max and Ruby and the voice of Franklin the Turtle. A Stopwatch from Grampa is her debut picture book.Carmen Mok is a studio art graduate of the University of Waterloo and a craft and design graduate of Sheridan College. She has illustrated a number of children’s books for publishers across Canada and the United States. Carmen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.
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