Calendar Quest, Jennifer Johnson Garrity

Another audio book, probably will have lots of inaccuracies, for which I apologize for.

Synopsis: S. Kronos is down on his luck and got a job at Lindsey’s family’s bookstore. S.K. has a break-down when people are buying calendars during the holiday bustle. When he loses a ton of customers after calling them all ignorant, he gets canned. He refuses to take the money Lindsey’s dad offers, so dad makes Lindsey and her friend Evan chase after him. They find him in a refrigerator box on a shady side of town, and they figure out he’s Father Time.  He explains how he gets upset when no one appreciates the hard work that went into the calendar. He decides to teach them how it evolved. So,  S. Kronos, his crow Ria, Lindsey, Evan, and Lindsey’s guinea pig Pinky,  are on a whirlwind adventure through time.

So, their adventure through time has a specific purpose– they’re stopping wherever people had influence on how the calendar worked. Literally, almost every place they go, SK disappears so the kids can learn their lesson, everyone thinks the refrigeration box is a gift of the gods/God, and they all are fascinated with the guinea pig.  So let’s just sum up the discoveries of all these stops, shall we?

Mesopatamia, Sumerians: lunar calendar.

Egypt (early BC?): They apparently have a lot of secrets, but the main one is their calendar is based on the sun’s journey through the constellations, and the new year is when the Osiris star shines brightest?

Babylonians: 30 day (I think 12 month) calendar plus 5 days added to the end of the year for feasts.

Israelites: 7 day week for 6 days of creation and one day of rest. (Most others have 7 day week to honor various gods, etc.) Lunar calendar, their new year starting near Passover.

Greece: Um, they had some complicated math theory, but they had the first workable lunar calendar. Otherwise, they added months here and there without any warning. ???

Egypt, Ptolemy III as Pharoah: the astronomers fess up to how they measure years and how they added leap years, but don’t confess to everything… of course.

Rome: Julius decides to change the Roman calendar to the Egyptian one, except they get to keep their 8 day week. Also, 5 feast days at the end are spread out during the year.

Rome again: Augustus changes a few things, mostly fixing leap years (which were celebrated every three years for some reason by Romans) and changing around a few of the dates. He may have changed the week to seven day, I can’t remember.

Constantinople: They figure out when Easter should fall, apparently, they used to call to ask when the Jewish passover was, and that just didn’t work out. So it’s after the first full moon of the spring equinox?

Sythian Monastary: A monk (Dionysuis Exiguus) (yay Google) realized that their dating system “In the year _______ of the rule of King Philip” just didn’t make sense to anyone other than the people who lived in the time of King Philip and maybe the generation after. So, he thought up BC/AD.

Charlemange put it into play.

Rome: Pope Gregory’s astronomer figured out that we were 10 days faster than what we should be. (The spring equinox fell on March 11 vs. 21). Gregory lops off ten days in October, and they figure out they should only have leap years every four years and in centuries divisible by 4. (1600, 2000). Woohoo, current system.

America, 1752: King George II is catching England up with the times and switching over the from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian system. They have to take away 11 days, and they change the new year.

America, 1950’s: Eisenhower is presented with the idea of the World Calendar, a simplified system of 13 weeks where every day is in the exact same spot as it is year after year. Eisenhower (obviously) decided to stay with the Gregorian system.

Bookworm Commentary:

Look, I’m a teacher. I admire people’s efforts in making learning fun. But, oh. Oh oh. This was a little more than contrived.

  • I think it was a cute story, but the premise was so blatantly “You ARE going to learn something and you ARE going to have fun doing so” made it a little less fun.
  • I listened to this as an audiobook, which has its advantages and disadvantages. The narrator had a soothing natural voice. But his character voices were imitations of famous people that were odd choices. While I admire Jimmy Stewart as a fine actor, I don’t know if a shy, awkward Greek is going to sound like a stammering Stewart. Constantine probably didn’t talk like Shatner. Other “voices” I heard but can’t remember the characters were  Elmer Fudd, Dom Deluise, Coach Z from Homestar Runner,  the old gentleman on Emperor’s New Groove (“Beware of the groove…”), and a few darker-sounding characters  reminding me of Will Arnett and Jack Nicholson.  It was all in English, but some of the accents didn’t necessarily fit the area where they were supposed to be in. I’m pretty certain Charlemagne’s daughter sounded German/Swedish. Moses et. al. had “generic Yiddish” and most Jewish characters sounded alike. There were a few unflattering lisps, esp. for Ptolemy.
  • Those kids were idiots.  Example: the first time they were in Egypt, they were put into jail for spying. The second time they arrive in Egypt, they respond, “Oh no! Bad guy will recognize us!” Dude, you’ve been traveling THROUGH TIME. You were JUST in Mesopotamia for the second time with different people. You met Moses during the Exodus, for crying out loud, you should know time has passed in Egypt. Trust Father Time already.
  • I’m familiar with Old Testament History, and the Exodus scene had me questioning the timing of a book that is based all on time. (I could be completely wrong since I’m not Jewish, but work with me).  So, Moses is fussing about indigestion after the Passover feast. They are crossing the Red Sea when the kids arrive. This strikes me initially as historically inaccurate: would the Hebrews have their first Passover feast WHILE the plagues were occurring (or, for that matter, directly after the plagues and before the pharaoh told them to leave)?  Also, Moses has their brand new calendar planned out early in their desert trip. The new year starts at Passover,  specific things that are supposed to happen around that time.  Now, if you’re going to meet Moses, it may as well be during the parting of the Red Sea. But the timing just seems off. If there’s evidence proving otherwise, please let me know.
  • The Sumerians think the kids are fallen stars, and Lindsey’s braces are proof. Pretty cute.
  • They left out the Mayans, which supposedly had the most accurate calendar.  I guess we had to focus on Western history.
  • George Washington apparently misses his 21st birthday because of the calendar change. I didn’t quite follow it, but the new New Year changed the year in Jan (a month before his bday)– so apparently the actual “date” of his 21st bday was skipped? <– hard time following the logic. But his bday (and everyone else’s) was pushed back 11 days as well to keep track (again, I dunno)– his “real” birthday is Feb 11. Wild, huh?

Class Stuff
Grades: ages 9-12, 4-6 grades
according to Amazon. I think this is fair and that the kiddos this age may actually lose themselves in the book. 
Grade:  C+.
I learned a lot of stuff, and trust me, she crams in her facts. I’m not sure if I followed all of them.  I appreciate the ways that the calendar has changed over the years after listening to this book but I wish it didn’t feel so forced.  I think the goal may have been a Magic School Bus idea in novel form, but it didn’t have the pizazz.

I don’t know how this would be as a book-book. I can’t decide whether listening made it better or worse. The voice actor’s choices were at times if-y, but nonetheless entertaining. A kid wouldn’t recognize voice inspirations unless they have movie buffs for parents.

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Filed under Adventure, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Upper elementary

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