Lynn Domenick McKenzie’s children’s picture book describes a turtle that finds a safe place to live for the summer, interwoven with facts about turtle habitats and their diets.
Toby, a painted turtle, introduces himself as a gentle reptile. He explains that he lives in a marsh next to a house on a hill. After getting stuck on his back, Toby is rescued by two children who live in the nearby house. He explains his need for a cool, shady home in the summer, and the children offer a large cage in their backyard. They agree to keep Toby safe all summer and return him to the marsh in the autumn. Toby enjoys his stay so much that the next spring he asks them to host him again for the summer.
The story provides fun sound effects (“Wheeee!”) and interesting facts (turtles eat flies, bugs, and “water vegetables (kelp)”). It’s also written with a lovely, lyrical bent: “Digging a path out of the mud, I swam up to the water surface. Dragon flies flitted from cattail to cattail. Mama Ducks [sic] and their ducklings floated and swayed in the waves…”
However, several flaws hamper enjoyment. It’s unclear why the children have “a cage with water, plants…and cool air holes” readily available. At one point, the narration inexplicably switches to third-person omniscient from Toby’s previous first-person account. And the children often speak in unison, as if sharing the same thoughts and actions: “The children agreed, ‘In the fall we will send you back to the marsh. We promise,’ they said raising their hands with their palms facing me.”
The book’s art is uneven, mixing amateurish illustrations with what looks like clip art. Additionally, the appearances of the turtle, children, and house change drastically throughout, as does the style of art utilized.
The pictures are likely to disappoint young readers; nonetheless, they may enjoy learning about turtles and how Toby forms a bond for the summer.
Also available in paperback.