April 12, 2017

By the Time You Read This

Written by Jennifer Lanthier
Illustrated by Patricia Storms
Clockwise Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
April 2017

By the Time You Read This, this book will probably be out and I’ll have missed its launch, but, hey, what can you do? At least it’s not the devastating news like that which the arm cast-addled Oscar pens to his former friend Sam, beginning with “To my mortal enemy, By the time you read this….” He then proceeds to itemize all the play things he is dismantling or putting the kibosh on in light of their conflict: the Scientific Experiment of Glorious Doom; their Indestructible Fortress of Fiendishness; their Epic Battle of Giant Robots versus Alien Insects; the Magical Zoo of Mystical Creatures; the Neverending Novel of Awesome Adventures; the Precarious Portal for Intrepid Explorers; and the Time Travel Tower of Ultimate Power.  It seems Sam laughed when Oscar fell when skateboarding.

But all that anger dissipates when Sam finds Oscar and apologizes for laughing, not realizing he’d hurt himself.  Recalling all the fun things they had done together, Oscar relents, asking Sam if she’d like to sign his cast.  With that, the two surrender to their friendship and get back to the business of serious play.
From By the Time You Read This 
by Jennifer Lanthier 
illus. by Patricia Storms
Though Oscar is initially vehement in his new enemy-ship with Sam, as denoted by his powerful words and the decisiveness of his actions, he is not immune to a little empathy and an apology.  It’s amazing what a small step of humility and voiced regret can do to turn things around, especially in a childhood friendship.  Children are forever making friends and dissolving friendships on a whim, justifiably so or not.  It’s evident that, in By the Time You Read This, even anger and disappointment can be fleeting and resolved amicably with just a few words.  Jennifer Lanthier’s text demonstrates the depths of friendship in Oscar and Sam’s imaginative play, especially in their super-duper partnership in taking on the world.  How could Oscar and Sam not stay friends?
From By the Time You Read This 
by Jennifer Lanthier 
illus. by Patricia Storms
Patricia Storms, who can illustrate both tender books like Never Let You Go and playful picture books like The Ghosts Go Spooking, lends an energetic atmosphere to By the Time You Read This, portraying the spirit of children in her boldly-coloured cartoons and in the little details in signage (e.g., "Oscar + Sam ONLY, No Parents Allowed, No Brothers Either") and toys.   Kids will laugh themselves silly over the creatures in the Magical Zoo of Mystical Creatures, like the Farting Fur-Tail and Lionisaurus Rex, and probably recognize a few of their own toys within the pages of By the Time You Read This. They’ll definitely see themselves in the book.  This is a important as young readers need to know that friendships sometimes fall apart but can be reconstructed, sometimes with just a little bandage of kind words.  And even though By the Time You Read This ends with Oscar and Sam reconciled, back at play in their Planetary Pirate Ship, they might still have another falling out.  Such are the nature of friendships when you’re close to someone and care about what they feel and do. But, with a smile and a little play (perhaps the board game on the inside of By the Time You Read This' s cover), all might be forgiven.

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