The concept of time for children and a road trip of a lifetime

Dan Santat, Are We There Yet?

Published April 12th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 40p


I have always been fascinated by the way children perceive time. It is a controversial concept that puzzles them; time can be so flexible and sometimes expands so much that it is definitely beyond children’s comprehension. What really matters for them is the present moment which practically is their referential time.

Dan Santat’s story is a humorous definition of time spent in the car by children and its effect on their imagination. I presume all parents know the famous question: Are we there yet? As children need to translate time in practical actions, waiting becomes forever.

Two parents and a little boy take a car trip as they are invited to Grandma’s birthday party. The first hour is exciting then eternity begins. And when things are boring, time really slows down.

This is taking forever (another famous children’s reply)

Then a steam locomotive chased by a cowboy appears; when hours feel like days the family begins to travel back in time to the Blackbeard and his pirates, medieval Europe, ancient Egypt and prehistoric dinosaurs and time flies by quickly now. Maybe too quickly, as they soon arrive into the future, year 2059. Luckily, it is only tricks of the memory, projections of a bored child’s imagination so they all reach Grandma’s house safe and on time.

Dan Santat (Caldecott Medal, 2015) dedicates the book to his son, not forgetting to mention: Be patient. We have all the time in the world.

I loved how the author suggested the slowing of the mind when bored and how it moved backwards, requiring the readers to twist and turn the book for a few pages.


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