Author-illustrator Julie Morstad explores the complex and abstract notion of time in Time Is a Flower, a thought-provoking picture book. She gets the most conventional definition out of the way first: “Time is the tock tick tock of the clock and numbers and words on a calendar.” But Morstad is more interested in the enigmatic and often evolving ways in which children experience time. “But what else is time?” she asks readers directly.
Answers to this question come to vivid life through metaphors that highlight nature and its underlying laws. Time is a seed that becomes a flower, then the flower begins to fade and its petals fall off “one by one, or all at once!” Time is also a growing tree, a delicate web carefully crafted by an “elegant spider” and a butterfly that was once a caterpillar. It’s a spinning planet that brings night for one child but day for another. The book also explores other temporal joys and frustrations, such as our growing and changing faces and bodies, the power of memories and photographs, the tempos of music and dance, and quiet moments spent with people we love.
Morstad’s crisp, fine-lined illustrations convey a hushed and wondrous tone. Her spreads are uncluttered and spacious, with grayscale pencil drawings of children and colors that pop off the page. The book’s notably large trim size and generous 56-page length are fitting: Time is an immense notion that contains multitudes.
Near the end of the book, Morstad briefly poses two questions that have stumped physicists for millennia: “Is time a line? Or maybe a circle?” Rather than venturing an answer, her humorous resolution is a reminder that sometimes life’s immediate pleasures trump its unanswerable metaphysical quandaries.