Author: Jason Cockcroft. Release date: 2009. Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books. ISBN: 9780061255540.
Review: This unique story is British author Jason Cockcroft’s first novel, and provides an interesting and cerebral read for tweens that will get them thinking about topics they might not be familiar with. American readers will likely have to familiarize themselves with certain important terms Cockcroft uses to advance the plot, like Beefeater, another name for the Yeomen Warders who guard the tower of London, and Routemasters, or red double-decker buses. Once the British vocabulary is understood, the story is very gripping. Nathan’s adventures through time are not as exciting or magical as other literary time-travellers. His father is trying, inadvertently, to stop the tragic events that cause the death of Nathan’s mother. Nathan is torn between his desire to set time on the right course and his own grief at the loss of his mother. The relationship between Nathan and his father Henry extends far below the surface interactions that are common in other novels for tweens, giving young readers a chance to truly think about how father and son might bond after the loss of a mother and wife. The character of Bartleby the Beefeater is akin to a large, eccentric and mischievous Fairy Godmother. At first, the reader isn’t sure what to make of him, but as the story progresses, he becomes quite likable. Overall, Counter Clockwise is an unusual story that will appeal to tweens of both genders and of varying degrees of interest in the science fiction genre.
Reading level: Grade 5+
Similar titles: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo.
Personal thoughts: This was a very interesting read, and I was surprised by the depth of the emotions evoked from the story. I learned some new tidbits about British culture and enjoyed Cockcroft’s writing style. I look forward to more works from this new author.
Themes: Time-travel, grief, death, father and son relationships.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.
Series Information: N/A
Nathan Cobbe – Teenager whose mother was killed one year before in a tragic bus accident. He lives with his father in a rundown project and has a very sad existence. His life changes forever when he meets Bartleby and begins his adventure through time.
Henry Cobbe – Nathan’s father. He is a neurotic and paranoid man, but tries his best to be a good father to Nathan. He is distraught over the loss of Nathan’s mother, and begins to inadvertently travel through time to try to save her.
Bartleby Cobbe – Beefeater and time-traveller who is revealed to be Nathan’s grandfather. He begins Nathan on his journey through time to stop Henry from altering the past.
Moll – Nathan’s best friend at school. She tries to get through to Nathan, but he is resistant to getting close.
Mr. Hernandez – Nathan’s physics teacher.
Annotation: If you could go back in time and right a wrong, would you do it? And if you did, would it be the right thing to do?