cover image Rodney Was a Tortoise

Rodney Was a Tortoise

Nan Forler, illus. by Yong Ling Kang. Tundra, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6662-9

Wry, observational writing by Forler (Trampoline Boy) and loose, frequently funny vignettes by Ling Kang (The Midnight Club) give this tale of loss its own distinctive, endearing resonance. Rodney, Bernadette’s tortoise, is practically prehistoric—older than her great-aunt—and girl and reptile share a happy kinship. Watercolor and pencil illustrations capture their intimacy, as Bernadette, who has light skin and straight black hair, dresses up as a queen and holds a mirror up so Rodney can admire the miniature crown she’s made for him (“She could tell he loved it”). One morning, though, Rodney doesn’t wake up. “Maybe he’s just holding his breath to be funny,” says Bernadette, before the truth of Rodney’s death launches her into mourning. Her schoolmates don’t acknowledge what’s happened or seem even to see her, and she copes by behaving like her old pal (“Bernadette put on her protective shell, and lumbered to school”), until compassion arrives from an unexpected place. Grieving Bernadette needs someone to meet her where she is, and classmate Amar, portrayed with brown skin, is just such a person in this quiet picture book that balances mourning and remembrance. Ages 3–7. (Feb.)