Tell Me the Day Backwards


Written by Albert Lamb, Illustrated by David McPhail

Candlewick Press, 2011

“Let’s play that game we used to play last summer,” said Timmy Bear as he got into bed for the night. “Let’s play Tell Me the Day Backwards.”

The plot in a nutshell: A bear and his mother remember the events of their day in reverse.

Timmy’s mother suggests that he start the game and he starts by saying that he brushed his teeth. Mama adds that they watched the sunset and Timmy tells her that they had a picnic dinner before that. Before that, he sunbathed and before that, Papa had to rescue him from the deep part of the river. He tells her that he had jumped into the river after being chased by some bees that were after him because he was taking their honey from a beehive he found. Mama points out that, at this point, that he should have come and gotten her when he found the beehive. Before that, he and Mama enjoyed an ant breakfast and before that was when they woke up and since this was their first day after hibernation, before that was their long winter sleep.

Author Albert Lamb based this book on a game his family used to play, where they would talk about the day in reverse. It’s a neat concept and one that I’ve seen in other books, but not with the same relaxing sense of calm that you see here. In most cases, exploring the chronology of events tends to create a frenetic energy, but here it unwinds slowly and sweetly and I absolutely love the reveal when we find out that before they woke up this morning, they were hibernating. Mama reminds Timmy that they are getting ready to sleep for just one night now and it feels more significant.


I don’t imagine the bees are particularly happy about him being that close to their hive.

David McPhail’s wonderful illustrations, in watercolor and sepia ink, follow Timmy through the course of his day and show us a curious little bear and a family full of love. The colors are gentle and soothing and most of the images are soft around the edges, furthering the notion of them being memories. The text is oversize, making it a good book to share with new readers, although I imagine the concept of cause and effect (or effect and cause, as it’s presented here) will be fun and interesting for older kids as well.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that where you are at any given moment is directly connected to the moment that came before it.


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