Tag Archive: tortoises


galapagos george

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor

A story of evolution and extinction, this picture book explores the incredible life of the famous Lonesome George a tortoise who was the last of his kind.  The book begins by explaining how a million years ago a tortoise was driven from South America and carried to the island of San Cristobal near the equator.  There she laid eggs, used her long neck to reach food, and passed on her genetics.  Thousands of years later, all of the turtles looked different with long necks and shells that curved back to give their necks more room.  When humans discovered the Galapagos Islands, they quickly decimated the turtle population which dwindled down to only a few thousand from the hundreds of thousands that had lived there.  A hundred years later, the giant tortoise population had reduced even further, so that one lone turtle remained.  He was moved to the Charles Darwin Research Station and protected but no other turtle of the species was ever found.

George creates a vivid story of the power of evolution in our world and the effects of humans on animal species.  She steadily shows how weather forces and natural disasters impact animals as well, moving them from place to place and changing their habitats.  As the animals change slowly, George keeps the text clear and factual, making for a book that moves quickly and is filled with fascinating scientific information.

Minor’s illustrations are lush and lovely.  They are filled with the light of sun, bursting on the horizon in tropical colors.  He also shows the barren landscape of the Galapagos clearly and the frank regard of a tortoise looking right at the reader.  There is a sense of loneliness for much of the book both when the book is about the first tortoise and then later when there is one left.  That connection between the two lone turtles is made clearly in the illustrations.

Fascinating, distressing and yet ultimately hopeful, this nonfiction picture book will work well in science classrooms as well as library collections.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

tortoise and the hare

The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney

Wow.  This companion book to Pinkney’s Caldecott Medal winning The Lion & the Mouse is another outstanding book.  Set in the deserts of the Southwest, the story has all sorts of animals gathered to watch the race, including badgers, lynx, mice, and vultures.  All of them wear at least one piece of clothing, from hats to bandanas to pants.  As the pages of the book turn, readers will get to see how each of the animals approaches the race, from the frenzy and then sloth of the hare to the steadiness of the tortoise.  Readers will get a sense of the slowness also from the words on the page that every so tantalizingly make out phrases as the pages turn. 

Told in few words, the book is all about the illustrations which are magnificent.  Filled with tiny details to linger over, each illustration is beautifully composed and helps move the story forward.  Pinkney stays true to the classic tale, not changing any of the storyline.  He manages to take stories that can become overly wordy and with images alone tell their story and make them appropriate and thrilling for a young audience.  I will always see his illustrations when I hear this story.  That is talent!

Quite simply, this is another masterpiece by Pinkney.  A must-have book for every library serving preschoolers.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

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