It happens of course, that occasionally after I post a book list, I will come across a new favorite that should have made the list. Such is the case for today’s book, so instead it gets a review all its own! A sweet back-to-school story that confronts the “what ifs” about a new situation and also politely turns the situation on its head. Here is Back to School Tortoise by Lucy M. George, illustrated by Merel Eyckerman, 2011.
This is a book that I took a chance on simply because I thought the animals were incredibly darling in their muted-color palette and chubby illustrated form. I often pass over books like this because they look a little too sweet to be entertaining; but thankfully this one found its way on our shelves and charmed my socks off with its understandable fears, light humor, and surprise twist.
Summer is over and it is time to go back to school. Tortoise pulls himself together and heads out the door. On the way though, the “what ifs” kick in.
Confronted with very normal concerns about tripping, mean kids, and the possibility of disliking lunch, Tortoise starts to rethink the whole going back to school thing. But then new “what ifs” come and find him. These “what ifs” are good things like having fun, reading with new friends, and eating all his favorite foods.
With a renewed confidence, Tortoise makes his way to school and in the end, everyone – including the reader – finds it to be a very different situation than we probably assumed.
Author Lucy M. George, the pen name of book editor Lucy Cuthew, has created a very lovable character in Tortoise and delightfully crafted a story for him that hints about everyone having nervous moments and concerns over new situations. Her text is light and very well-paced which has left a wonderful amount of room for connecting to Tortoise’s fears. I greatly admire authors who don’t explain the life out of something but tell it very simply.
The spare text also leaves a lot of room for the tender illustrations of Merel Eyckerman. I love her round animals, muted colors, and especially the use of white space combined with all those lovely details! I could spend great amounts of time oohing and awing over things like the toast and tea for breakfast, the backpacking wearing squirrel in the forest, and the many charming patterns scattered through the outfits and textiles. With a gentle story like this, the details of the images are what captures you and encourages slow reads and taking in each spread.
I hope all the back-to-school moments for you are going well and that you find sweet books like this dear Tortoise to help calm fears and bolster confidence.