Review: Of time and the winter solstice
“The Time Fetch”
By Amy Herrick (Algonquin Young Readers, $16.95)
As the winter solstice draws near, time is speeding up. Classroom bells ring too fast, teachers who are normally punctual show up late, a pumpkin decomposes in minutes, and what appears to be a solid world is no longer solid. Edward’s Aunt Kit warns him, “Something’s been set loose that shouldn’t have been. You’d better get up. Your help may be needed.”
Welcome to the world of Amy Herrick’s delightful, page-turning and thought-provoking novel “The Time Fetch.” (Algonquin press materials recommend this book for ages 10 and up. Readers in the “up” category who enjoy science fiction and fantasy should feel absolutely no guilt when they pick up this book.)
Edward, who lives with his Aunt Kit, has procrastinated in his assignment from Mr. Ross, his science teacher: to find a rock from a glacial moraine and bring it to class. Making his way to class, Edward picks up a random rock, and there the adventures begin. Unknown to him, he has picked up a time fetch, which contains creatures called foragers, whose job is to gather moments of time that will not be missed. The Keeper then distributes those extra moments to those who might need them.
The foragers escape from the fetch, and begin multiplying. Soon they begin eating at the fabric of time. Mr. Ross, a science teacher you wish you had had, warns Edward and his classmates that while the days will get longer after the winter solstice, “remember that there are tipping points, when the balance of things gets so out of whack, there is no returning to the old cycles.”
Edward has to team up with three of his classmates to make sure the tipping point does not lead to nothingness. There is Feenix, his nemesis, who calls him “Dweebo” and who likes to get Mr. Ross off topic; Danton, an optimistic athlete who befriends Edward; and Brigit, a shy newcomer to the school who also has insights that will prove valuable in their quest. Their mission is to keep the fetch out of the hands of The Unraveler, but make sure it gets back to The Keeper, who will restore everything to its proper order.
Like the trio in the “Harry Potter” novels, these divergent personalities must find ways work together to return the time fetch to its proper guardian.
Herrick has created some wonderful characters. While Mr. Ross can be thrown off track, he also can engage his students in unexpected ways. Aunt Kit is, among other things, a teacher of pastry making, and a master baker. She also understands the forces that will make this solstice one to remember.
Herrick skillfully combines the elements of fantasy with scientific concepts in this tale that might make you ponder when the December solstice comes around again. And it will.