The World in a Second
The World in a Second
Written by Isabel Minhós Martins; Illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho; Translated from Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Published by Enchanted Lion Books, 2015
“Every time a second crosses the world (always running, always in a hurry), millions of things happen, here, there, everywhere…” This well-known, but always astounding fact is the focus of The World in a Second, by Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, and translated from its original Portuguese version by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Across the world, happening at the same exact second, we see personal acts juxtaposed with natural phenomena, humorous situations contrasted with tense, suspenseful ones. For example, in just one second, “…In an island barbershop, a man bids farewell to his mustache,” “…Something important slips from a woman’s fingers,” “The dogs (and only the dogs) feel a tiny tremor in a Venezuelan city,” and “…A thief opens a door (perhaps to his own house, it’s impossible to say).” Each discrete event is given a double-spread page of vibrant colors and pop art-like details, narrated by sparse text that encourages the reader’s close reading, careful inference-making, and imaginative exploration. No clear connection among the 23 events is apparent aside from their occurrence at the exact same second, allowing readers to focus solely on each event or attempt to link them with their imaginations. A map at the end of the book marks the various locations of each event, ranging from New York to Mexico to Angola to South Africa, among many others, and lists the actual time it would be according to its time zone. A thought-provoking book that will have your students pondering concepts of time, nature, personal action and responsibility, and even philosophical debates about chance and destiny, The World in a Second is a book to get for your classroom at this exact moment in time.
Same Second, Multiple Perspectives. Closely read the illustrations, especially those with more than one character in them. What might each be thinking in that one second, given what’s written in the text and what is included in the illustrations? How might they view and interpret the same event in the same second differently? How might their perspectives be similar? You might have students add thought bubbles made from sticky notes for those characters to the illustrations, or you might have them write thought monologues for those characters. When explaining their decision about what other characters might be thinking or feeling, make sure students support their answers with specific details from the text or the illustrations. As an extension activity, perhaps for older grades, have students read about a particular event from diverse perspectives and then create an illustration depicting one second of that event including as many perspectives as possible.
The Neighborhood in a Second. Similarly, have students ask one or two people they know outside of school to note what is happening at a designated time the next day. You might suggest that they all set an alarm to remind them to pause at that time and pay attention to what they are doing and what is going on around them. Have students collect the observations from their helpers and then share them in class, again either as a live presentation or a virtual one.
Duet Model: Stories at the Same Time. Read The World in a Second and Cynthia Jaynes Omololu’s When It’s Six o’Clock in San Francisco. While the first book captures the spirit of one second by offering a quick snapshot of what is happening around the world at a certain time, the second book offers detailed vignettes. What is the effect of each kind of storytelling technique? How do the illustrations in each book enhance the stories? How might a vignette be created from a snapshot in The World in a Second, and how might a snapshot be derived from a vignette in When It’s Six o’Clock in San Francisco?
Duet Model: Snapshots as Stories. After reading The World in a Second, read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg, with students. Compare and contrast how each book conveys more of each story than the few lines of text on each double-page spread conveys. How do the words and illustrations work together to reveal more information? Which of the selected few words convey depth of meaning? Have students try to create similar snapshot stories with a single line of text and a page of illustration. For younger students, perhaps pair The World in a Second with Bob Graham’s The Silver Button.
Narrative Writing Ideas. As a stand-alone teaching invitation or an extension to the previous one have students select one of the events in The World in a Second as the inspiration for writing a fictional narrative. The event each student chooses may be incorporated at any point in their story—as an intriguing beginning, as the climactic turning point, or as a cliffhanger ending. You might also want to pair this book with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg (see Duet activity above) for a text set of creative writing ideas.
Time Zones. The map at the end of the book shows where each of the stories happens, as well as the time that would appear on a clock in that location. Use this map to help explain the concept of time zones. You might ask students to share their experiences with travelling to different time zones, or Skype, FaceTime, or otherwise video chat with students in other time zones across the world to discuss the concept. Education World lists a number of resources for teachers to establish virtual pen pal for their students with classrooms around the world. You might also want to share the book At the Same Moment, Around the World, by Clotilde Perrin, to help explain the different times of day that are happening at the same moment around the world.
Website about Isabel Minhós Martins
Websites about Bernardo P. Carvahlo
Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s website
Kids Science News on Time Zones, NASA
Time Zones and How They Work, NASA YouTube video
Understanding Time Zones, National Geographic
Freytes, S. (2010). In just one second. Ill. by F. Morais. Wilkins Farago.
Omololu, C. J. (2009). When it’s six o’clock in San Francisco: A trip through time zones. Ill. by R. DuBurke. New York: Clarion.
Perrin, C. (2014). At the same moment, around the world. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Schuett, S. (1997). Somewhere in the world right now. Dragonfly Books.
Singer, M. (1991). Nine o’clock lullaby. Ill. by F. Lessac. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Van Allsburg, C. (1984). The mysteries of Harris Burdick. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Filed under: Picture Books
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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