Books·Canadian

A Stopwatch from Grandpa

A picture book by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok.

Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok

A young child with pale skin and dark hair holds a stopwatch and slumps, despondent, on a porch. Grampa has recently passed away, and the child is in the throes of sadness and loneliness. Together, they had used the stopwatch to record various activities in minutes and seconds, like the child's eating bubble-gum ice cream, Grampa's snoring on the couch, both eating oatmeal-raisin cookies, and more. Those seconds and minutes represented a deep, intergenerational friendship, the absence of which is keenly felt by the young child.

Unable to bear this loss, the child buries the stopwatch in a drawer and experiences anger, bargaining, denial, even depression — rarely so clearly characterized in picture books for young readers. Time heals most wounds, and, as the seasons pass, the time comes at last when new memories can be made using Grampa's favourite stopwatch. Told in honest, first-person prose, this story gently confronts this first journey through loss, offering sensitive conversation starters for families.

Muted, poignant illustrations rendered in paint and both coloured and graphite pencils effectively depict this difficult yet all too common experience. The child's face in particular, though simply drawn, evokes a range of emotions — at once poignant and comprehensible. (From Kids Can Press)

Loretta Garbutt works as a children's bookseller and voice actor based in Toronto. A Stopwatch from Grampa is her first picture book.

Carmen Mok is a St. Catherines, Ont.-based illustrator. 

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