It's the first day of summer vacation, Penelope dreams of spending the time filling her notebooks with fascinating words and stories. To Penelope's mother, this means keeping Penelope on a tight schedule of chores, studying for the pre-SAT, cooking lessons and summer science camp. Penelope would much rather spend the time with Miss Maddie, who has very different thoughts on time than her mother. Miss Maddie would let Penelope sit and "do nothing," or just sit and let her mind wander. But, mother feels that she is wasting her time and has forbidden her to visit with Miss Maddie. After a hard day at summer camp, Penelope awakens thinking that her schedule will once again be jammed pack, but things are different today. Today, her schedule is filled with nothing. Penelope takes this as an opportunity to go visit Miss Maddie, who always has the best ideas. As Miss Maddie goes to make tea, Penelope explains how she has a hole in her schedule and would love to write, but she has run out of ideas. Penelope says her mother wants to fill the hole with chores like cleaning up her junk starting with throwing away her notebooks. As Penelope is looking at the blank calendar page, she suddenly falls through a hole of nothingness and lands in the Realm of Possibilities. Here she meets Dill, a man who is in search of the Great Moodler, a woman who comes up with the greatest moodles ("a daydreamer, mind wander, able to lose track of time, and, in the most severe cases...do nothing,") she is also the one who makes real possibilities. That is until Chronus came into town and built a huge clock tower, he took all the possibilities away and the Great Moodler with it. In her place, Chronus made Clockworkers to monitor the time and make sure that everyone wasn't wasting it. Penelope decides that she will help Dill to find the Great Moodler, feeling she is the only one who can get her ideas flowing again and help her to get back home.
When Penelope falls into The Realm of Possibility, I instantly thought of Alice falling into Wonderland, but The Lost Track of Time is much more like reading The Phantom Tollbooth. It has a very classic feel, it's whimsical with strong messages, beautifully written, a kind of universal appeal. Penelope is wandering through The Realm of Possibility with her guide Dill (who had me thinking of Mr. Tumnus). Along the way, she encounters fantastical places like the Naughty Woulds and Timely Manor, while battling a case of the Worry Warts and a Wild Bore. Like the Phantom Tollbooth, there are many play on words, in this case dealing with time (killing time, own sweet time, and right time, to name a few ). Penelope's desire to become a writer is so sweet and who hasn't had that moment when inspiration is lacking? I'm also a big fan of the idea that "the only time you can spend is the time you have right now. And the time you have right now is all the time in the world." By the end of the story, Penelope develops the confidence she needs to discuss taking sometime for herself with her parents. I would have really liked one more scene where she does just that and her parents agree, but I left feeling like it just wasn't in the realm of possibility for her. Anyone else read this and have that feeling? Despite that feeling, I highly recommend this, especially if you've read and enjoyed The Phantom Tollbooth.
The Lost Track of Time has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.