As this picture book story begins, Joe is being told to hurry up. Mum has to put the bin out before she can strap Poppy into her buggy and take Joe to school, and they rush, rush through the streets with a crying Poppy, and just make it in time. At school, Mr Khan tells the class they don’t have much time to paint a picture of what they saw on the way to school, and when the bell rings for break, Joe hasn’t had time to put Poppy into his picture, so he shouts, ‘STOP THE CLOCK!’, and everyone is frozen except Joe. Why was Poppy crying? He gets off his chair, and, possibly in another dimension (he is shown as a bit misty), goes back over their journey. He sees that the sky is not just one blue, but light blue, grey, and white; there were weeds, and small creatures and lots of shops and buildings, people catching the bus, posting letters – and he picks up Poppy’s blue teddy! His picture pleases his Mum, once he has put himself in it, and Poppy is delighted to have her teddy back. The endpapers show the two versions: at the beginning we see the very basic picture, and, at the end, the much more detailed version, with Poppy smiling. It’s a lovely idea – wouldn’t we all like to be able to stop the clock sometimes? But the message is that we should take time to look, and enjoy what is around us.
Pippa Goodhart is a very experienced author, with over a hundred children’s books to her name, and this partnership with the relatively new illustrator works well. Maria Christania’s two pictures supposedly by Joe are very credible, but then she does work part-time in childcare, so she knows children’s art. This will be fun to read, and a starting point for some potentially interesting conversations with children.