Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Counter Clockwise Book Review

Author: Jason Cockcroft. Release date: 2009. Publisher:  HarperCollins Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780061255540.

Annotation:  If you could go back in time and right a wrong, would you do it? And if you did, would it be the right thing to do?  

Personal thoughts:  This was a very interesting read, and I was surprised by the depth of the emotions evoked from the story. I learned some new tidbits about British culture and enjoyed Cockcroft’s writing style. I look forward to more works from this new author.   
Plot summary: Nathan Cobbe’s life changed forever the day his mother was tragically killed in a bus accident. Now he lives with his father, Henry, in a dingy apartment in a run-down project slated to be demolished at anytime. Nathan’s life is humdrum: he attends school but doesn’t really pay attention, his father is making him take physics review at a local community college to prepare for exams, and his only friend, Moll, can’t seem to get through to him. One night, however, during his physics review, Nathan meets someone that takes him on a strange adventure through time: an enormous Beefeater named Bartleby who seems to know quite a bit about Nathan’s life. It seems that Henry is inadvertently travelling through time, trying to stop Nathan’s mother from getting hit by the bus that ended her life. What Nathan learns, however, is that some things in life, and time, are meant to happen, and that changing them can alter the world in unimaginable ways. With Bartleby’s help, Nathan must stop his father from setting time spinning by changing the past, before it’s too late.
Review:  This unique story is British author Jason Cockcroft’s first novel, and provides an interesting and cerebral read for tweens that will get them thinking about topics they might not be familiar with. American readers will likely have to familiarize themselves with certain important terms Cockcroft uses to advance the plot, like Beefeater, another name for the Yeomen Warders who guard the tower of London, and Routemasters, or red double-decker buses. Once the British vocabulary is understood, the story is very gripping. Nathan’s adventures through time are not as exciting or magical as other literary time-travellers. His father is trying, inadvertently, to stop the tragic events that cause the death of Nathan’s mother. Nathan is torn between his desire to set time on the right course and his own grief at the loss of his mother. The relationship between Nathan and his father Henry extends far below the surface interactions that are common in other novels for tweens, giving young readers a chance to truly think about how father and son might bond after the loss of a mother and wife. The character of Bartleby the Beefeater is akin to a large, eccentric and mischievous Fairy Godmother. At first, the reader isn’t sure what to make of him, but as the story progresses, he becomes quite likable. Overall, Counter Clockwise is an unusual story that will appeal to tweens of both genders and of varying degrees of interest in the science fiction genre.
Genre: Science-fiction/Adventure
Reading level: Grade 5+
Similar titles:  100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo.
Themes: Time-travel, grief, death, father and son relationships.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.  
Series Information:  N/A

Discussion Questions:

- What is the mood of this story?

- Do you think Nathan and his father have a good relationship? How did Nathan's mother's death impact their relationship?

- Do you think time travel is possible? What are some of your favorite time travel stories?

- What are your impressions of Bartleby?

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