Thirteen O'Clock

James Stimson, Author, James Stimson, Illustrator . Chronicle $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8118-4839-8

What happens when the clock in an old house strikes thirteen? "Atop the mysterious old clock/ a hidden hatch flipped./ And upon the freaky 1st of thirteen o'clock's tones,/ from it sprang a spriteful fright. " Newcomer Stimson (who worked on the animation for James and the Giant Peach ) weaves wacky word webs as he calls the roll of 13 strange creatures that emerge from the clock. They move "sneaking sneakily.../ creeping creepily.../ to the small girl's room at the end of the hall." Is she in for a terrible shock? No! It's the creatures' turn to be frightened "when the ghoul crew realized that the uncanny culprit/ behind the bewildering plot/ was the prankster in pajamas, their small friend , not a fiend." Stimson's pencil illustrations appropriately take shape in shadowy black and ghostly white, with only shades of olive and brown for color. The creatures liberated by the clock appear as flat geometric shapes, big blockheads with dots for eyes and little sprites with antennas and stick feet. Whirling winds wail through the scenes, and plenty of typographical pyrotechnics—crooked typesetting, large and small fonts, and occasional hand-lettering—add visual punch. Stimson's free-associating free-verse and bold use of an eclectic, alliterative vocabulary ("Is it a peculiar pendulum with a precarious pivot?") make this a fine read-aloud choice—at any hour of the day or night. Ages 3-7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Genre: Children's
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