Review of How Old Is Mr. Tortoise?

How Old Is Mr. Tortoise? How Old Is Mr. Tortoise?
by Dev Petty; illus. by Ruth Chan
Primary    Abrams    40 pp.    g
6/22    978-1-4197-4670-3    $18.99
e-book ed.    978-1-68335-972-2    $15.54

In this comic in picture-book form, Mr. Tortoise is so old that he’s forgotten how old he is, prompting his friends to become preoccupied with trying to figure out how many candles to put on his cake. Walrus suggests that Mr. Tortoise must be seven (just like him!), and Pig suggests he must be twelve because he has twelve sections on his shell. The partygoers start to quiz him on what people wore when he was young, whether he’d owned a television, etc. Chan’s depictions of the characters are full of expression. Mr. Tortoise’s emotions, which range from excited to thoughtful to confused to triumphant, dance across his face from panel to panel, and his friends are vibrant with enthusiasm. The book alternates between pages of panels and double-page spreads, varying the pace to the story’s advantage, lingering on humorous moments and adding to a sense of things spiraling a bit out of ­control. Mr. Tortoise doesn’t care how old he is or how many candles he has: “I’m the birthday tortoise and I would really like to have cake!” Anyone who’s ever had to wait for a treat will ­empathize.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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