Hubbard, Louisa Garff. Grandfather's Gold Watch. Illustrated by Louisa Garff Hubbard. Shadow Mountain, 1997. ISBN 1-57345-242-4. $11.95. Unpaginated. A 2-5 PB Reviewed by Marsha D. Broadway Twelve-year-old Peter is leaving Denmark to sail to America with his parents. Their final destination is the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, but first Peter must say goodbye to his grandfather, for whom he is named. In parting, Grandfather counsels with his grandson and sends two gifts with Peter: his name and his gold watch.”My timepiece and my name belong to you now,” Grandfather said kindly.”I cannot ask you every year on your birthday how you have treated these gifts. You must ask yourself every year for me, What have I done with my name? What have I done with my time?” The trip is filled with adventure and hardship--someone tries to steal the watch, Peter's father dies, and Mr. Tereson, the co-owner of their wagon, abandons the family on the prairie, until the wagon master rides back to rescue them. On the evening before the travelers arrive in the Salt Lake Valley, the watch is lost and Peter is heartsick, but he cherishes the gift and remembers his grandfather's advice. Forty years later, in 1896, after Peter concludes his speech at the statehood celebration, a man shakes his hand and says,”So you are Peter Nels Jorgensen.” I have known your name for forty years, but I never expected to find you.” Peter's watch is returned by the man, and that evening Peter gives the watch to his twelve-year-old grandson Nels, with the counsel to “always remember to ask yourself, What have I done with my name? What have I done with my time?” This well-crafted story about growing up, honoring family, and respecting family values could easily have been heavy-handed or didactic. It is not. It is tender and loving, and young readers will find page-turning adventure, with young Peter choosing for himself how he will respond to Grandfather's counsel. Grandfather's Gold Watch is an ideal discussion starter on decision-making and values for families. The finely detailed pen and ink drawings complement the story and its theme and add symbolic meaning. In the book's second illustration, a young and pensive Peter stands in front of a bare tree as he prepares to begin his journey; toward the story's end, a mature, thoughtful Peter stands in front of a fruit-laden tree, bringing to mind the biblical scripture “by their fruits ye shall know them.” When the family is abandoned by Mr. Tereson with the words “I wouldn't stay for a trunkful of gold watches,” Peter is depicted staring through an assortment of suspended gold watches. The one at his forehead reveals the watch's interior works, suggesting thinking or worrying. Two transparent watch faces and two closed watch cases hang so that Peter's worried face shows, suggesting that time seems unending when one confronts difficulties. Many families will want to acquire this book for their home libraries; public and school libraries should also consider it.
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