Part of the fun of New Year’s Eve is watching the countdown happen in cities around the world, as fireworks illuminate the skylines of Sydney, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, London and New York. That experience of watching a single moment unfold in far-flung places across the globe is echoed in a beautiful picture book, At the Same Moment Around the World, by French author Clothilde Perrin. The idea of a revolving planet and different time zones is captured in an evocative sequence of pictures showing what children are up to in different places around the world.
The book opens at sunrise, on a beach in Dakar, Senegal, where “Keita is helping his father with his catch of fish.” From this moment at 6 a.m. on the Greenwich meridian, we move east, following the longitudinal time zones first invented by Sir Sandford Fleming in the 1880s: “At the same moment, it is 7 a.m. in Paris, and Benedict is drinking his hot chocolate before school.” Each turn of the page brings us a new time zone and the surprise of new surroundings: a forest in Bulgaria, a market in Iraq. In Samarkand, a boy riding on a donkey shares the road with camels and motorcycles. In Dubai, a little girl watches construction workers build a skyscraper. Even the tall, narrow shape of the book evokes the vertical sections of the globe that make up the Standard Time system.
It’s a fascinating idea for children that at any single moment on Earth, in some places it is night rather than day and summer rather than winter. At the same moment a boy in a thick coat is walking his dog through the snow in Russia, children in New Caledonia are playing with conch shells on a bright, sunny beach. Perrin’s illustrations have an atmospheric, slightly fantastical quality that is most pronounced in the night scenes: at midnight a boy in Mexico City is having “magical dreams” about the Aztecs, and a little girl in Greenland can’t sleep at 3 a.m. with the aurora borealis shimmering in the sky. Set against the ordinary experiences of children everywhere—eating snacks, helping with chores, staring out the window of a train—Clothilde Perrin gives a sense of the immense variety of landscapes and cultures on Earth.
Map enthusiasts will pore over the giant foldout map in the back that shows where each child lives, and an appendix explains systems of timekeeping and the invention of time zones, including the interesting fact that both China and India, despite their size, use only one time zone. At the Same Moment Around the World is a poetic introduction to world geography and a fun way to start the year off with a quick trip around the world.