cover image Time and the Clock Mice

Time and the Clock Mice

Peter Dickinson. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (127pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32038-2

Evolution, the development and nature of language, and the concept of time are themes that have appeared again and again in Dickinson's ( Eva ; A Bone From a Dry Sea ) sophisticated YA novels and adult mysteries. Once again he tackles these topics, this time in an effervescently eccentric modern-day fairy tale aimed at a younger audience. Called in to repair the elaborate Branton Town Hall Clock which his grandfather built nearly a hundred years before, an elderly clockmaker discovers a colony of highly evolved, super-intelligent, telepathic mice residing in the clocktower. As his work progresses, the clockmaker strikes up a friendship with Tracy, ``a really bright, adventurous mouse'' who is fascinated by everything about clockwork. The story, including the mice's near-disastrous encounter with an ambitious scientist, is told in a series of ``essays'' on such subjects as clocks, mice, cats, science and people. In addition to offering an explanation of a pendulum clock's mechanisms that would be worthy of David Macaulay's The Way Things Work , the narrator introduces readers to a handful of his endearingly oddball cousins--including cat-worshiping Cousin Angel, blind Cousin Minnie (a fine baker and expert on bells) and that marmalade fan, Cousin Duncan. An essential part of the narrative, Chichester-Clark's exuberant, playful illustrations mirror the tale's whimsy without a trace of coyness. Ages 8-up. (May)