Cover image for Time pieces : the book of times
Time pieces : the book of times
Hamilton, Virginia.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Blue Sky Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
199 pages ; 20 cm
Valena, her family, and dog live in rural Ohio, where she and her cousin Melinda share experiences that include seeing the aurora borealis, surviving a tornado, and going to an amazing circus.
Reading Level:
400 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.2 4.0 68619.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 4.7 8 Quiz: 31696 Guided reading level: T.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Work Room
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Newbery Medalist Virginia Hamilton presents a novella that brings together the slave past and multi-generational present life of a young girl in Ohio.

From picking berries with her cousins to surviving a tornado to being dissed by a white, bigoted teacher, the daily life of Valena is drawn here with quiet dignity. Time Pieces are places in time, including chapters moving back to Hamilton's autobiographical family story of her grandfather's escape from slavery in Virginia, when he was brought to Ohio by his mother, a native American. A strong work of fiction from a master storyteller.

Author Notes

Virginia Hamilton was born March 12, 1934. She received a scholarship to Antioch College, and then transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus, where she majored in literature and creative writing. She also studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Her first children's book, Zeely, was published in 1967 and won the Nancy Bloch Award. During her lifetime, she wrote over 40 books including The People Could Fly, The Planet of Junior Brown, Bluish, Cousins, the Dies Drear Chronicles, Time Pieces, Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl, and Wee Winnie Witch's Skinny. She was the first African American woman to win the Newbery Award, for M. C. Higgins, the Great. She has won numerous awards including three Newbery Honors, three Coretta Scott King Awards, an Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. She was also the first children's author to receive a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1995.

She died from breast cancer on February 19, 2002 at the age of 67.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-8. Completed a few months before Hamilton's death last year, this semi-autobiographical novel weaves together some of her childhood memories of growing up in a warm, extended family in rural Ohio. In the summer before sixth grade, Valena visits her great-aunt, quarrels with her cousin, loses her beloved dog, and is terrified by a tornado. The real drama, however, is in the tales Valena hears about the people who came before her. Here at last is the story Hamilton alluded to so often: how her great-grandfather Luke escaped as a boy and crossed to freedom, led by the strong, brave woman Proud Mary. Luke's repeated question to Proud Mary, "Are you my mother?" captures so much of the anguish of slavery. Valena hears that story in bits and pieces from her mother, and there's a strong sense of the child hearing from those who need to pass it on. The details of Valena's happy daily life make the point about her roots and her strength, but the small things don't always make for compelling reading. There's also some contrivance when Valena connects the loss of her pet with the "loss of so many" to slavery. It's Graw Luke who will haunt readers, and as always with Hamilton, the telling is the story. Her fans will also be fascinated to see the seeds of so many of her books here, from The People Could Fly (1985) to Cousins (1990). Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Starred Review. Pitts gives a sparkling performance of Hamilton's last novel, which was completed before her death in 2002. As precocious and likable 11-year-old Valena, Pitts is particularly sharp, a fact that will surely draw listeners into this tale that weaves together elements of Hamilton's authentic family history with a coming-of-age story. In the course of one eventful summer that includes a tornado, outings with relatives and a trip to an unusual traveling circus, Valena also hears tales about her heritage from her mother, Harriet. It's Harriet's recollections (referred to here as "reckons") that fill in some of the details of how Valena's grandfather escaped slavery with his mother and traveled the Underground Railroad from Virginia to freedom in Ohio (where Valena and her kin now live). Fans of Hamilton's body of work will recognize familiar themes and elements of her other books. Pitts plays both humorous and poignant tones with equal skill, making this an all-around entertaining listen. Ages 10-14. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-In this semiautobiographical novel, Hamilton tells the story of Valena, who lives in rural Ohio with her parents, two older siblings, and a beloved dog; a large extended family lives nearby. This summer, in between fifth and sixth grades, she survives a tornado; takes a trip to the circus to see an enormous, disfigured gorilla; and is misunderstood when she accidentally takes something from her Great-Aunt Peavy. Her entire family suffers a loss as well, and she learns that time and growing up mean constant change. Valena's present is set against her family's past, and the heart of the book is the story she hears of her Great-Grandfather's crossing to freedom on the Underground Railroad, a story that is told-and heard-in pieces. Also fascinating is the account of a pygmy woman brought from Africa on a slave ship, whose future is intertwined with that of Valena's family. Hamilton knows how mysterious the unknown can be to children, and has a superb ear for dialogue. Some elements of the story of Valena's visit to an unpleasant schoolteacher seem a bit puzzling, and a few phrases here and there don't have the author's usual polish. But, more often, the simplicity and directness of the language serve the subject matter beautifully. The book gets off to a quiet start, and some children may need an adult introduction. They will find it well worth it, if only for the humor and suspense in many of the tales.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



In this quietly beautiful coming-of-age story, eleven-year-old Valena lives with her family in rural Ohio where she and her cousin share experiences such as surviving a tornado and going to an amazing circus. Yet Valena lives in both the present and the past as she struggles with racism in her daily life and listens to and learns from her mother's tales of her family's proud history. Moving backward and forward in time, these pieces of Valena's life blend to form an extraordinary portrait of the ties that bind a family together over generations. Excerpted from Time Pieces: The Book of Times by Virginia Hamilton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.