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Once Upon a Tim

Book #1 of Once Upon a Tim
Illustrated by Stacy Curtis

About The Book

Join New York Times bestselling author Stuart Gibbs in this first book in a hilarious, highly illustrated new middle grade series about a peasant boy who wants to be a knight, perfect for fans of Max & the Midknights.

Tim is just a peasant, but he dreams big. He wants more out of life than to grow up to be a woodsman like his father. Unfortunately, the only route to success in the kingdom of Wyld is to be born a prince. Still, Tim is determined. He is brave and clever and always tries to do the right thing—even though he rarely gets the credit for it.

Then news spreads that Princess Grace of the neighboring kingdom has been abducted by the evil Stinx and Prince Ruprecht needs a legion of knights to join him on his quest to rescue her. Tim finally has the lucky break he’s been waiting for, the opportunity to change his station in life. And even though he doesn’t know how to ride a horse or wield anything more deadly than a water bucket, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure his dream becomes a reality.

Excerpt

Chapter One: Who I Am CHAPTER ONE Who I Am
ONCE UPON A TIME…

There was a prince who was revered throughout the land for being exceptionally brave…



who was known far and wide for his cool and calm presence in the face of grave danger…



and who was beloved and adored by all the people of his kingdom.



This is not his story.



It’s mine.

I’m Tim.

Come in a little closer so you can have a better look at me.



You know how, whenever you see a movie or read a story set in olden times, it’s almost always about a dashing prince or a beautiful princess, and you’re supposed to get all wrapped up in their troubles?

Well, there are lots of other people who aren’t princes or princesses, and trust me: we have way more problems than the rich folks do.

We’re called peasants. And being a peasant stinks.

To start with, we’re all really, really poor.

See those clothes I’m wearing? Those are the only clothes I own. I’ve been wearing the same outfit for two years—and it was a hand-me-down from a cousin who wore it for two years before me.

All the princes and princesses live in castles with hundreds of rooms. I live in a hut.

See?



You might be thinking to yourself, Gosh, that’s awfully small, but it looks pretty cozy.

Well, it’s not. For example, look at the windows….

Oh, that’s right. You can’t. Because there aren’t any windows. Peasants can’t afford fancy stuff like glass. Which means that any animal that wants to get into your house can do it: flies, lice, raccoons, muskrats, wild boars, the occasional dragon…

While I’m on the subject, here are a few other things we don’t have:

Air-conditioning.

Heaters.

Refrigerators.

Televisions.

Internet.

Bathrooms.

Yes, you heard that right. We don’t have bathrooms. No showers. No sinks. No toilets. (All right, I’ll admit, the princes and princesses don’t have flush toilets either, but they at least have separate rooms to do their business and professional wipers to clean them afterward.)

But the worst part of being a peasant isn’t really what we don’t have.

It’s what we can’t do.

See, there’s only one way to become a prince or princess: you’re born into it. That’s it. No one can apply for a job as a royal family member. If you’re a peasant boy, like me, you basically have one option:



Peasant.

My parents are peasants. So were their parents. And their parents before them. And so on and so on and so on, going all the way back as far as anyone can remember. (Which, given that there aren’t any history books readily available, is about seventy years.) There’s nothing you can do about it.

Almost.

It turns out, there is one way a peasant can change his lot in life. It isn’t easy, though. In fact, it’s extremely dangerous. Ridiculously, terribly, insanely dangerous. But if you’re smart, brave, confident, trustworthy, honest—and if you don’t die in the process—then you might be able to pull it off.

I was willing to give it a shot.

Because, like I said, being a peasant stinks. (Okay, I’ll admit, some people are content with peasantry. Like my parents. And all my uncles and aunts. And all my distant cousins. And most of my neighbors. But it just wasn’t for me.)

So… this is the story of how I took that shot. And how it led to the greatest adventure of my young life—along with plenty of danger and peril and treachery and doom.

It’s a good story, though. I promise. And there are some awesome pictures, too. So settle down, get cozy, maybe make a quick stop to use the bathroom (with your flush toilet, you lucky duck), and I’ll tell it to you.

Right now.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for

Once Upon a Tim

By Stuart Gibbs

About the Book

Tim is just a peasant, but he dreams big. He wants more out of life than to grow up to be a woodsman like his father. Unfortunately, the only route to success in the kingdom of Wyld is to be born a prince. Still, Tim is determined. He is brave and clever and always tries to do the right thing—even though he rarely gets the credit for it.

Then news spreads that Princess Grace of the neighboring kingdom has been abducted by an evil stinx, and Prince Ruprecht needs a legion of knights to join him on his quest to rescue her. Tim finally has the lucky break he’s been waiting for, the opportunity to change his station in life. And even though he doesn’t know how to ride a horse or wield anything more deadly than a water bucket, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure his dream becomes a reality.

Discussion Questions

1. As the novel opens, readers discover that while this story includes both a prince and a princess, it’s not about them. Instead, they meet Tim, and he immediately shares that he is a peasant and “being a peasant stinks.” Based on what you learn about peasants in olden times, discuss what makes their lives so difficult.

2. What is your initial impression of Tim? What about Belinda, Ferkle, Ruprecht, and Nerlim? Are there ways in which these characters surprised or disappointed you?

3. Though it is not his choice, Tim reveals that the only clothes he owns are the ones he’s been wearing for two years. If you had to pick and wear the same specific things each day, what would you choose and why? In what ways are you luckier than Tim?

4. Tim shares that there are many things worse than going to school. Consider the list of tedious tasks he offers. (Chapter 3) Which of these do you find to be the worst and why?

5. In Once Upon a Tim, readers learn that while all peasants have a terrible life where they mostly focus on survival, there are some differences in opportunities for males and females. How are the expectations and gender roles different for Tim than they are for Belinda?

6. For most people in “olden times” (what we might refer to as the Middle Ages), an individual’s fate was believed to be set. How do Tim and Belinda prove that despite that belief, it’s still possible to find ways to change their fate or choose what happens to them in the future?

7. Tim, Belinda, Ferkle, and the other peasants live in a system of government in which the royalty of the kingdom of Wyld (King and Queen Goodheart and their son, Prince Ruprecht) are in charge. Why is this problematic? What are some of the signs that the king and queen aren’t very smart or good leaders? Can you think of examples of good leadership in Once Upon a Tim?

8. While discussing her capture and the belief that the stinx is dangerous, Princess Grace tells them, “You can’t believe everything you hear.” Do you agree? Are there things that look scary, but really aren’t? Can you think of any examples from real life?

9. Belinda tells Princess Grace, “‘Let me get this straigh . . . You could have rescued yourself at any time, but you stayed because society has taught you to wait for a man to come and save you?’” (Chapter 15) Why is it so important that Belinda helps Grace learn that women can do anything that men can?

10. Given what you learn from Once Upon a Tim, what makes Ruprecht and Nerlim so disappointing?

11. In what ways is Ferkle more than he appears?

12. In what ways is this story about hope for Tim, Belinda, Ferkle, and even Princess Grace, in spite of the difficulties they encounter?

IQ Booster Vocabulary Activities

Once Upon a Tim is filled with big vocabulary words that are fun to learn and use, and that make the story more engaging. Use the following activities to help readers practice using and learning these words so they can sound like geniuses too.

Vocabulary Relay

Print out IQ Booster words from Once Upon a Tim on one set of cards (copy this set a few times) and definitions, context, or sentences (fill-in-the-blank) in which they could be used on another set (just one set).

Mix up the words in a pile in the middle of the floor, and jumble up the definitions, context, and sentences to keep with you. Break students into teams of four or five.

Call out the definition/context/sentence and give students some think time (8–10 seconds) to talk about what word it might be.

After the discussion time, call out “Word!” One member from each team runs to the center and tries to find the word in the pile. Consider having multiple sets of the words so more than one team can get it. Check to make sure they’re correct, and then discuss it briefly before the next round.

Vocabulary Bingo

After the group has learned at least twenty-five different vocabulary words from Once Upon a Tim, bingo is a great option that students love to play that will provide a great opportunity to review. Students simply write a vocabulary word from the novel in each space of their bingo card (you’ll need to create a template). Use review and discussion of Once Upon a Tim to provide the definition of one of the words and have the students find the vocabulary word and cover it with a bingo chip. The first player to get five in a row, four corners, or blackout (when every spot on the card is filled) wins the game.

Picture This: Vocabulary Word Draw

Drawing detailed pictures of a word’s meaning is another powerful tool to help students learn, understand, and retain a new vocabulary word. Choose the six words prior to making copies, or ask the students to choose the six trickiest words.

Act It Out: Vocabulary Word Performance

Instead of making drawings that depict a word, students use their actions to help create a meaningful connection to the word. Offer students a chance to perform as a group or one at a time in front of the class for the others to guess the vocabulary word and write it down.

Additional Extension Activities

1. Design a Dwelling

In Once Upon a Tim, readers get to explore medieval homes that are magnificent or incredibly modest (including the stinx’s cave). Tim offers a detailed description of his family’s home (chapter 1), and Belinda’s hut is likely very similar. Given what is learned about these characters from the novel, select one of them and design a dwelling they deserve. Dwellings can be created on paper. To extend the project, consider 3D models using shoeboxes, paper rolls, craft paper or paint, glue, and a lot of imagination!

2. Choose Your Own Adventure: Create a Quest

Though the journey to save Princess Grace is perilous for Tim, Belinda, and Ferkle, it’s also one filled with thrilling adventures. Drawing inspiration from their experiences, work with a small group to create an original quest. Be sure to determine who your characters are, what the goal or prize is, what the biggest obstacles are, and what surprises you might find along the way. As a bonus feature, create an original map of your setting similar to that offered in chapter seven.

3. Make a Mythical or Menacing Monster

Throughout Once Upon a Tim, readers encounter Tim’s fr-dog, as well as several fantastical monsters along with some scary ones while on the journey to find and rescue Princess Grace. Whether it’s bloodthirsty butterflies, gargantuan grasshoppers, elephantine earwigs, Brobdingnagian bees, a sea serpent., or a pair of terrible trolls, these creatures strike fear in Tim and the others on the quest. Ask readers to work independently or with a partner and use their vast imaginations to create an original monster, being sure to offer a description and features that make the creature fierce. As an added activity, have them draft an original story featuring their monster.

4. Create a Comic

Once Upon a Tim is filled with delightful illustrations by Stacy Curtis. Using Stacy’s illustrations as inspiration, select a favorite scene from the novel and create either a digitally or manually illustrated graphic for that scene. Use either a digital comic strip creator (http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix/) or a printable comic book storyboard sheet (found online) to begin to design the storyboards for their selected scene.

This guide was created by Dr. Rose Brock, an associate professor in the Library Science Department in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. Dr. Brock holds a Ph.D. in Library Science, specializing in children’s and young adult literature.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or thebookpantry.net.

About The Author

Photograph by Dashiell Gibbs

Stuart Gibbs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Thorne series, FunJungle series, Moon Base Alpha series, and Spy School series. He has written screenplays, worked on a whole bunch of animated films, developed TV shows, been a newspaper columnist, and researched capybaras (the world’s largest rodents). Stuart lives with his family in Los Angeles. You can learn more about what he’s up to at StuartGibbs.com.

About The Illustrator

Stacy Curtis is the illustrator of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids series by Sean Covey and the Once Upon a Tim series by bestselling author Stuart Gibbs. He lives with his wife and dog in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (March 1, 2022)
  • Length: 160 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534499256
  • Grades: 2 - 5
  • Ages: 7 - 10
  • Lexile ® 710L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ V These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Raves and Reviews

"A comic quest follows, with scares and laughs abundantly on offer...Tim’s chatty, entertaining narration, which includes ample potty humor and the occasional vocabulary 'IQ booster,' also touches on lessons about stereotypes and unconscious bias throughout the chatty, madcap adventure." 

– Publishers Weekly

"Gibbs peppers his prose with entertaining side comments as well as “IQ boosters,” explaining terms such as malodorous, iconoclast, and infinitesimal, while maintaining the pace of the narrative. This giddy romp through a medieval setting, complete with menacing trolls and gigantic, bloodthirsty butterflies, is the start of a promising series from the author of Spy School (2012) and its sequels."

– Booklist

"Budding heroes defeat class and gender expectations as well as the occasional monster in this wry outing."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Fans of heraldic silliness like “The Princess Bride” and “Shrek” will delight in ONCE UPON A TIM, a charming take on the traditional knightly adventure.

– The New York Times Book Review

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More books from this author: Stuart Gibbs

More books from this illustrator: Stacy Curtis