Thursday 9 July 2015

Back to School Tortoise

A comforting read for little worriers.

Author: Lucy M George
Illustrator: Merel Eyckerman
Published by Meadowside Children's Books 2010
reviewed copy-library copy

Back of book
It's time to go back to school. But Tortoise is worried...What if he falls over? What if he doesn't like lunch? What if he doesn't make any friends? The perfect back-to-school book about being brave, with a surprise at the end!

The Story: Summer is coming to an end and Tortoise gets ready for the first day back at school. But, on his way he starts to worry- what if he falls over , doesnt like the school lunch or what if the the children are mean? Cute, soft illustrations show Tortoise visualising the worst. He feels glum and wonders if he can face his first day at all. Thankfully though, he decides to think positive and hope for the best. It all works out fine in the end and Tortoise enjoys a lovely day back at school. This is a simple story with a surprising twist at the end.
On his way to school, Tortoise starts to worry about what might go wrong.
Missus B's  Picture Book Reviews

'Back to School Tortoise'

More from Missus B
This is a sweet and simple tale of a character who, like many children, is a little worried about his first day back at school. I certainly recall that excited, nervous feeling on my first day back, along with the many questions- will I make new friends...what will teacher be like?
As Tortoise makes his walk to school, his mind takes a little wander also and we see his very real fears about not enjoying the food, feeling clumsy and being treated badly by the children. With just a few negative thoughts, we see tortoise's body language change from confident and happy, to despondant and glum.
The story then gives readers a subtle message about exchanging negative thoughts for positive ones. After taking a few moments to reflect, Tortoise decides to put his worries aside and instead visualise a fun filled day with nice food and new friends. With these positive thoughts in mind,he  steadies himself takes a deep breath, opens the school door and bravely says hello. And, thankfully, he receives a warm welcome from the class.

                             ******SPOILER ALERT********

But hang on?! The children reply 'Good morning, Mr. Tortoise!' and he stands in front of his students. Ha! Now- that's an ending you didnt expect did you? Well, it certainly surprised me.
I LOVE the surprise ending in this book. The story allows children to see that, even a class teacher can feel a little nervous about the first day back to school and that adults can sometimes have worries. Although, Mr. Tortoise's worries are child-like and some older children may question this- would a teacher really cry if the school children were mean? Would a teacher really wish for a school lunch which is only made up of cakes and muffins? (o.k. that bit could be a pretty realistic wish!)
The illustrations are cute with a variety of animals the child reader may want to name and discuss. In soft, muted colours, the animals each have cute round faces and a chunky look (I particularly like the cute chick & robin.) The pictures softly sit in a white background with lovely details like tortoise's tea & toast breakfast, a little squirrel scurrying to school, insects & mushrooms in the woodlands. The animals are humanised as they are partially dressed, wear shoes and carry school satchels (Robin tucks her bag under her wing- what a lovely little lady!) Throughout the book the variety of soft patterns bring intricate details to the illustrations.

This is a simple and short story with an unexpected twist at the end.Children who are little worriers may relate to Tortoise's thought patterns, and can learn something from his strategy to manage his worries- pause, reflect and exchange the negative thought for a positive one. Overall, it gives a comforting, reassuring message to children who are nervous about school. This simple story can offer opportunities to discuss fears, worries, social behaviour and positive thinking.

Here's a bit I didn't like:
The opening of the story doesn't seem to flow well- except for the book title, there is no proper introduction to Tortoise. On the first page we read that Summer was almost over and 'It was time to go back to school' and the second page reads 'He got up. Got dressed and had breakfast.' As I had borrowed my copy from the library, I found myself checking the the binding of the book to see if a page had fallen out! To me, it seemed like a somewhat blunt beginning to a story.

But, overall I enjoyed this sweet story.

Happy reading, 
Missus B :)

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