Readers check in on Mr. Wolf every hour of his birthday, but it seems like the poor guy just can’t catch a break on his special day.
Four-and-twenty blackbirds wake him up (at 7 a.m.), asking him the titular question. His grumpy answer? “It’s time for blackbird pie.” His porcine neighbors keep him from a snooze by slamming their doors on their way to work (“time for bacon sandwiches”). And the day continues in this vein: The letter carrier (a girl in a red hood) skips his house, his cupboard is bare, it rains on the way to the store, and every hour, fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters check in on Mr.Wolf, asking him for the time. But readers won’t need to ask for the time. A marvelous mix of timepieces is scattered throughout the text and includes analog and digital clocks of all sorts: a sundial, a pocket watch, a wristwatch and a cuckoo clock, among others. By the time the hapless birthday boy is awoken from his nap by a fiddle-playing cat, observant readers will have guessed the “surprise” ending. But the time-telling practice and literary references aren’t even the best treasure here. Gliori’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations are both detailed and delicately executed, charming and wowing at the same time.
There is much to enjoy here, and the illustrations and allusions beg for repeat readings. (Picture book. 4-8)