Jan 2, 2012

A Second is a Hiccup

New Year's is the big family celebration in Japan. It's sort of like the Christmas holidays in Canada. Basically, a lot of sitting around a family member's house, watching the same stuff on tv for decades, eating too much, and children getting spoiled (in Japan, with gifts of cash).

But for little kids, the idea of a new year, indeed, a whole year, is hard to fathom. Heck, it's hard for adults. I've read Stephen Hawking's A Briefer History of Time and I am still clueless.

For this Nonfiction Monday. hosted this week by Nonfiction Detectives, we read A Second is a Minute (CAN, JP, US), written by Hazel Hutchins, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, and published by Arthur A. Levine Books.

The beauty of this book is that it breaks down units of time, from seconds up, into things children understand. A second is just like kissing mama or turning around. A year is a new pair of shoes. Although I wish Hutchins had said a new size of shoes, since my soccer-playing nut of a son puts holes in his shoes every 3 months or so! I don't think that's normal.

This is the second book from Hazel Hutchins that I have reviewed, the first being Mattland. The styles are really different, but the quality is the same. Mattland was stark and simple, suiting the setting, whereas the lyrical rhyming in this book is great for kids to understand and remember. I could see it being a chant, like "30 days hath September..."

A Second is A Hiccup is my first experience with Denton, but I really enjoyed her illustrations. The one all of us liked the most was the sprinkler- despite it being close to 0 (I know, all you in Canada are laughing at me now!) and cold, we felt the warmth of that picture right off the page.

This book ends with a look at how our kids grow up so fast. They are fascinated with the process it takes babies like their new cousin to learn to walk, then talk, then get as "big" as they, and Hutchins played right off of that fascination pre-schoolers have. All in all, a lovely book, more heartwarming than a nonfiction picture book usually is!

The reason I ordered this book is that I saw the Japanese version on a display at my local library for New Year's. A Japanese version of a Canadian picture book? Sold! I bought the Japanese version for my nieces and it was cool to compare the books. The Japanese version isn't as lyrical as the original, but it makes excellent use of onomatopoeia to convey the passing of time. A great translation, in my opinion.

This is the 20th book I read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.


  1. Hi! I haven't heard of this book yet, but it sounds great "A second is a minute" - will definitely check it out. Many thanks for the recommendation! :)

  2. You've sold me on this. I look forward to finding and reading it.

    I actually remember some of my early confusion regarding time. I, too, related time to events: a half hour was as long as a tv show, for instance. And I remember wondering why my perception of time was so different from my parents'.

    I wonder how kids are relating to this book.

  3. Myra, please check it out, it is great!

    JenFW, my kids (2 and 4) really like acting it out. I like it when they act out the kisses part, but the hour of running through sprinklers will have to wait for spring. :)


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