Thursday, November 10, 2011


Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

For the first few pages of this book, I felt REALLY slow. Steve Jenkins begins his book about time with a paragraph of information about the interval of time known as a second (an interval not related to any cycle in nature -- a human invention) and then pictures of animals or objects with a caption that tells how many of something they accomplish in a second. 20 hammers on a tree trunk for a woodpecker, 300 meters of a stoop (dive) for a peregrine falcon, Earth advances 18.5 miles in its orbit around the sun, a commercial jet covers 800 feet.

At the beginning of the pages about the minute, we learn that it, too, is a human invention, based on a Babylonian counting system. The hour we use, the one that divides day and night into twelve parts each, comes from the Egyptians. Days, weeks and months each get their own spreads of facts. They are based on cycles in nature.

Jenkins ends the book with a spread of "Very Quick" things -- things that happen in fractions of a second, like the trip a major league fastball makes to the plate (4/10 of a second), and a spread of "Very Long" things (in 2,000,000,000 years, the Earth's oceans will have boiled away).

Also in the ending are several graphics that I'd love to have as posters or handouts so that my students could look and  think and wonder and discuss the information presented graphically (no explanation or descriptive text): the history of the universe shown in a Fibonacci spiral, the Earth's human population in a stacked bar graph that shows the growth every 50 years by continent, a chart of life spans of a selection of plants and animals, and a timeline of this history of time and timekeeping.


  1. Anonymous9:32 AM

    I haven't seen this book yet, but will look for it now that I've read your post. It reminded me of another book about time, though. Do you know A SECOND IS A HICCUP, by Hazel Hutchins and Kady McDonald Denton? It's a picture book for early elementary grades, one of my favorites.

    Loree Burns

  2. I have a crush on Steve Jenkins' books. They are so very inquisitive-oriented. I need to add this one to my next school order.


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