Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock by Jesús Trejo

By the time this review is published, Summer Reading will have begun at the Joplin Public Library. The Summer Reading Program is a free, all ages reading challenge that runs from May 28th through July 21. Participants can keep track of their reading during that time on a paper log or online ( and win prizes. The reading challenge is accompanied by in-person events for all ages. Our theme this year is “Adventure Begins at Your Library.” I have selected a few of my favorite books that fit this theme to share in my review.

On the surface, the plot of Jesús Trejo and Eliza Kinkz’s Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock hardly seems like an adventure; the young narrator goes to work with his dad on Saturdays. Lucky for us, Jesús, the young boy telling the story, has an active imagination and an infectious sense of adventure. His father is a gardener, and he gets to go with him to work every Saturday where he helps plant, cut grass, and trim trees. The most special job, however, is keeping track of the titular magical water jug. Jesús’ papȧ clues him into its magical timekeeping properties: “When the jug is empty, that means, time to go home.” Jesús is tasked with making sure the water doesn’t spill, but he also has plenty of fun along the way. Trees are scary monsters and sleepy cats are lounging vacationers. He takes all aspects of the family business seriously, from trimming and raking to digging and mowing. The reader can’t help but notice, however, how carefree Jesús is with the water in the jug. He takes a few sips here, a few sips there. He gives it to the little dog in the sweater who must be hot and the peacocks with their giant tails. He even splashes it on his face a few times as the sun gets higher in the sky. When the water jug runs empty, Jesús proudly announces that work is done for the day– at 10:30 AM. It turns out that the magical water-jug isn’t magical at all and they needed that water to last all day. Jesús’ father is understanding and offers a kind pep talk rather than a stern lecture.

Kinkz’ hand drawn illustrations are reminiscent of Chris Raschka of The Hello, Goodbye Window fame (among other titles). The illustrations are loose and fun, with watercolor often spilling out of an item’s defined edges. The characters’ facial expressions have a distinctly cartoon style, with a squiggly curlique nose for Jesús, an angry tree with its tongue sticking out, and bug-eyed peacocks with sunglasses on. Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock would be a good book with different illustrations, but Kinkz illustrations really seem like a perfect match for Trejo’s story. I would recommend this book for preschool and early elementary readers.

The Children’s Department staff has compiled a list of suggested titles to complement the “Adventure Begins at Your Library.” Other picture book favorites of mine include Jess Hannigan’s Spider in the Well, a strikingly illustrated modern-day fable about a town called Bad Goodsburg, Adam Rex’s increasingly outlandish picture book On Account of the Gum, and Christoper Denise’s Knight Owl, the tale of a tiny but mighty bird.

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