Returning to the world that Klassen has built in his previous picture books is pure joy. In this picture book, he presents a series of short chapters that tell the story of a tortoise, and armadillo and a snake. In the first story, the tortoise has his own favorite spot to stand that is near a flower. The armadillo though prefers a spot near a small sapling. Readers know a huge rock is hurtling towards them. But who has decided on the right place? In the second story, the tortoise climbs the rock and falls off, yet he doesn’t want any help at all getting turned back over. The third story has the friends imagining the future. Plants will grow up around the rock and there may be a terrifying one-eyed creature too. The next two stories deal with feeling left out until that same terrifying creature returns.
Klassen has such a delightful darkness to his stories. This one still has hats in it, but they aren’t the focus of any of the stories. Instead it is the rock itself that literally anchors the stories together along with the three animals who find themselves near it. Klassen creates real drama with the tension he builds in his stories, moving from the rock hurtling to the quiet of it afterwards. He also moves from imagining what could happen to that happening very quickly in reality. These elements add a dark humor to everything, making the books immensely funny even as they take a turn.
As always, Klassen’s art is simple and powerful. He uses the pages as almost a stage with a line of horizon that stays consistent throughout the book. The dialogue is either on its own page or on a distinctly separate part of the illustration, allowing the action to continue to play out in front of the reader and listener.
Dark, funny and full of surprises. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Harriet lives on the Galapagos Islands. She spends her day slowing going about her routine of eating and sleeping. The other animals on the island want her to start moving faster and explain that she should head out to see the world. Harriet gets curious and decides to set off, she heads off to see the penguin parade on a neighboring island, swimming slowly and steadily. She makes it in time to see the penguins, then takes some iguanas for a ride on her shell, and builds a pool for the sea lions. All of this takes a lot of time, since she does it so slowly. She heads back home finally, slowly swimming in the sea until she meets some dolphins who show her how to go fast. But Harriet is much happier moving at her own pace and getting to see everything she wants.
Based on a Galapagos Tortoise who lived in an Australian zoo, this picture book celebrates both the endangered tortoises themselves and the idea of going slow through life. Children will love the depictions of the various animals and the extreme slowness of Harriet herself. The pacing of the book does not drag, instead showing all of the details that Harriet sees and that others miss. It is about the journey and savoring it all.
Molk’s illustrations show the beauty of Harriet’s world. Done in block prints with watercolor and then enhanced digitally, the illustrations have a timeless feel that works well with the subject matter. They have a great organic quality to them with the deep black lines and the swirls of watercolor for the skies and seas.
A celebration of slow, this picture book is a dynamic look taking your time. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
This picture book is a retelling of the classic Aesop fable. The story is much the same with the added tantalizing feature of a carrot patch to get Hare to slow down and eat and then take a nap. As always, Tortoise simply walks along, not zipping at all. Hare awakens from his nap just that critical second too late and misses winning by a hair. The entire book is wonderfully accessible and readable with humorous touches added like diagrams of both Hare and Tortoise and their advantages and disadvantages. It reads aloud nicely, the pace happily more like Hare than Tortoise throughout.
Murray’s illustrations are large and will work well when shared with a group. Hare is a bounding and lean while Tortoise is rounded and with a determined set to his jaw. The illustrations show clearly that Tortoise is behind and the long walk he has to the finish line. While the snoozing Hare has the setting sun behind his full belly after leaving a trail of munched carrots.
Clever and jolly, this enduring tale is brightened by a fresh take. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
A little girl has been longing for a puppy for her entire life. She has lists of dog names, read about training, and dreamed about life with a puppy. So when she opens the box with holes in the top on her birthday, she is dismayed to discover a tortoise inside. Her father had told her he was allergic to dogs, but she had still dreamed of having one. Now she has a cold-blooded reptile. She has no ideas for names for him, so she doesn’t name him anything. She figures out that he can’t play fetch, does not like rolling over, doesn’t do many tricks, and doesn’t get excited when she returns home. Slowly though, she does figure out things that she can do with a tortoise, including selling turns holding it and painting its nails. When she tries playing hide-and-seek though, she discovers that tortoises are far too good at it. Now she is the owner of a lost tortoise. How will she ever find him again?
Keane has written a witty story that shows the natural progression of falling in love with a different kind of pet. The protagonist tells the story in her own voice, filled with righteous indignation at being given a reptile and then turning to grudging respect for what it can do, and finally becoming an expert on tortoises. The characters throughout the book are thoroughly realistic and human, from the father who mentions his allergy to no avail to the little girl and her friends as they try to find the hiding tortoise. The reactions and emotions here are honest and true, creating a book that is funny and heartfelt.
Campbell’s illustrations add so much to this picture book. The little girl’s pigtails show her emotions just as much as her face. They are perky when hopeful, limp when lonely, and almost stiff when angry. Using plenty of white space, the illustrations show both a loving family and a warm community where people are willing to line up for lemonade and a tortoise.
A dynamite picture book that is ideal for pet-themed story times or to introduce a new pet to a classroom or family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.
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.
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.