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Review of Who Wants a Tortoise?

keane_ who wants a tortoisestar2 Who Wants a Tortoise?
by Dave Keane; 
illus. by K. G. Campbell
Preschool, Primary    Knopf    40 pp.
7/16    978-0-385-75417-0    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-385-75418-7    $20.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-385-75419-4    $10.99

In spite of her father’s allergies, the narrator longs for a puppy for her birthday. The “present with the holes in the top” looks promising, but what she finds inside is a tortoise — and a lot of disappointment. Her dog-owning party guests are not very helpful. (“‘What is that?’…‘Is it dead?’”) An array of spot art shows the tough start to the relationship between girl and tortoise, while lists on the refrigerator keep score: Things a Tortoise Can Do vs. Things a Dog Can Do. At an appropriately slow-and-steady pace, owner and pet do begin to warm up to each other. The tortoise sits still to have his toenails painted, wins a race (against some snails), and poops on classmate Brendan’s desk at school (“which is totally great”). Just as the new bond forms, the tortoise manages to get lost (“He looks like a rock, but with long, sparkly pink toenails”), and the girl suddenly realizes how much she cares. He turns up in the neighbor’s turnips and cabbages and is welcomed home with fanfare and a name of his own: Rover. The narrator’s initial petulance, revealed in the frank narrative and soft pictures done in watercolor and colored pencils, is both entertaining and realistic. Sensitive readers may develop feelings for the innocent tortoise long before she does, which makes for a satisfying ending. Front endpapers outline the tortoise’s disadvantages, while the back reflects the girl’s capitulation with an enthusiastic presentation of useful tortoise facts.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach About Julie Roach

Julie Roach manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

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