________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 1 . . . . September 4, 2009


Just a Minute! A Crazy Adventure in Time.

Jeff Szpirglas. Illustrated by Stephen MacEachern.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 2009.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897349-45-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-897349-44-1 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Time-Juvenile fiction.
Time-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

*** /4


If this spaceship drove at the speed of a car on a city street, it would take 342 years to reach the Sun. But this ship can move fast. Not as fast as the Sun’s light, but maybe fast enough to make an escape.

These flying saucers belong to the alien Glucazoids. They are also fast, and totally evil. They don’t like the spaceship.

The Glucazoids use their reverse tractor beam to send the spaceship crashing toward the Sun. The aliens will triumph in sixty seconds. If YOU don’t stop them, the spaceship is doomed.

“David, breakfast is ready.”

“Just a minute!”

Sixty seconds. That’s one minute. A lot can happen in one minute. For starters, David can save his spaceship from the Glucazoids. Look around and see what else happens in a minute.


Just a Minute is a collection of random facts, mostly about the natural world, presented in the context of David’s trip to the zoo. All the facts center around one minute of time: how far can an animal run in a minute? How much water flows over Niagara Falls in a minute? How many minutes does it take the space shuttle to orbit Earth? The facts are in text-boxes scattered across two-page spreads of colorful, cartoon-like illustrations that tell a silly story of animals escaping from the zoo and being chased by David, his family and the zookeepers.

     The story begins with a spaceship getting attacked by aliens, an ideal hook for boys. The spaceship attack turns out to be in David's hand-held video game which later gets stolen by a monkey at the zoo. The amusing narrative of David's attempt to get his video game back is told through dialogue in speech balloons which are different enough from the text-boxes that a reader can easily follow the story without getting confused. The facts on each page are connected to the illustrations but are in no particular order, and so a reader can choose any fact to read.

     Jeff Szpirglas generally does a good job of making the facts interesting and clear, although they can be a little heavy on numbers (and it doesn't help that he has to use both metric and imperial measurements). He comes up with good metaphors to make the numbers more concrete, such as the 6 litres of water a toilet uses to flush being "enough to fill three large soda bottles," or the black mamba's speed allows it to "cover the length of almost two football fields in one minute." Sometimes his efforts to be more clear make his text too wordy, but, as every page has both long and short text blocks, a reader who gets stuck can always skip to a shorter fact.

     Just a Minute! is not a book intended for research projects, but it is ideal for independent reading time. Even reluctant readers will be drawn in by the humorous illustrations and the reassuringly short blocks of text. It's a book that can be returned to over and over: once the story has been read, the book can be opened randomly for every page has jokes and fascinating information to catch the eye. It's also a good book for inspiring further reading. With topics from aardvarks to thunderstorms to the speed of light, Just a Minute has enough tantalizing facts to grab any reader's attention and encourage lots of questions that will require another trip to the library!


Kim Aippersbach is a free-lance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC. Her nine-year-old son went to the library and got three books on termites after reading Just a Minute!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.