Jean Reidy: Truman

Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019

The first thing I have to say is that I want a turtle just like Truman. As big as a donut, just as sweet, and full of pluck, this little turtle has found a place in my heart.

Truman the turtle belongs to Sarah, and we discover that he has excellent manners, never growling or shrieking at anybody. Truman is just pensive, peaceful,l and thoughtful like Sarah and observant too.

When Sarah packed an extra big backpack, fitted a blue bow in her hair, had extra banana with her breakfast AND served up extra beans for Truman to eat, he just knew something was up.

Truman was right. His worst fears confirmed. Sarah had boarded the Number 11 bus going south and Truman had been left behind.

This is the part of the story where Truman’s character shines. He is determined to find Sarah, even if it means facing all his fears and venturing out into the world on his own. Truman’s progress out of his tank, across the couch, over some tall boots and through the vast pink rug that seems to go on and on, is an adventurous trek that requires steely determination, bravery, and ingenuity. Can he do it?

It takes a long time to travel that far, and by the time Truman reaches the front door, there are some familiar sounds on the other side. Could it be his Sarah?

This is a wonderful story that touches on themes of separation anxiety, finding your inner strength, getting out of your comfort zone and stepping into the unknown. It also reinforces the idea that relationships are built on trust and love and exist whether we are all physically together or far apart.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years, and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature turtles and tortoises, some fictional and others educational:

Franklin’s Blanket
by Paulette Bourgeois Illustrated by Brenda Clark

The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

The Smallest Turtle
by Lynley Dodd

Snail and Turtle Rainy Days
by Stephen Michael King

The Tortoise and the Hare
by Bruce Whatley

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Little Turtle and
the Changing Sea
by Becky Davis
Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Emerald by Aleesah Darlison Illustrated by Leanne White

Who Saw Turtle?
by Ros Moriarty
Illustrated by Balarinji

The Green Sea Turtle
by Isabel Muller

Torty and the Soldier
by Jennifer Beck
Illustrated by Fifi Colston

Journey of the Sea Turtle
by Mark Wilson

One Tiny Turtle
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Hi, Harry! by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Barbara Firth

The Rabbit and the Turtle Retold & illustrated
by Eric Carle

Turtle and Me
by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Tor Freeman

Turtle and Tortoise are NOT Friends by Mike Reiss Illustrated by Ashley Spires

Mossy by Jan Brett

I’ll Follow the Moon
by Stephanie Lisa Tara Illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi

Michaël El Fathi: Hard Times for Unicorn

Illustrated by Charlotte Molas

Published by Tate Publishing, London, 2021

There’s a lovely little paragraph at the beginning of this book by the author and illustrator, thanking the French railway company for their serendipitous meeting one Saturday in November where they encountered each other in seats 65 and 66 on the journey from Hendaye to Paris. This picture book may never have existed if that meeting had not taken place, and that would have been a shame, the world needs more stories about unicorns!

Beginning with the capture of unicorn by a young Siberian explorer, we follow the ups and downs of her experiences as she gets passed on to one owner and another by foul or fair means. Unicorn is lost in a game of cards, won by fishermen, sold to a knight, passed on to an athlete, used by a robber, shot out of a cannon, and remodelled as a coat rack.

Each experience is plausibly told in a few short sentences, and unicorn does her best to go with the flow, whether she is happy or not, well cared for or not. But unicorn finds real happiness at the end when the narrator finds her in an old antique shop, sensibly puts her on the Trans-Siberian Express train and leaves her at the edge of the snowy forest that is her home in the wild.

This story reminded me of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, a story of a horse that is passed from one owner to another and endures the good times and bad times with strength of character and patient stoicism. Both stories help us to understand how to endure the capricious nature of life and to bend with whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. With some luck, some kindness and good fortune, the tale ends happily for unicorn, which is just as it should be for this fabled creature!

The illustrations greatly enhance the telling of the story and show an enormous variety of uses for a unicorn’s horn! (a safe opener, really?) There are a few colourful double page spreads, but mostly the sparse coloured text sits on a white page next to the illustration on the other page, the colours complementing each other beautifully.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-6 years, and below I have further suggestions for picture books which feature magical unicorns:

You Don’t Want a Unicorn!
by Ame Dyckman
Illustrated by Liz Climo

I’m a Unicorn by Mallory C. Loehr Illustrated by Joey Chou

A Unicorn Named Sparkle
by Amy Young

Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert
by Morag Hood
Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Thelma the Unicorn
by Aaron Blabey

The Return of Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

The Christmas Unicorn
by Anna Currey

I Wished for a Unicorn
by Robert Heidbreder
Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

That’s Not My Unicorn
by Fiona Watt
Illustrated by Rachel Wells

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn
by Lou Carter
Illustrated by Nikki Dyson

I Wish I’d Been Born a Unicorn
by Rachel Lyon
Illustrated by Andrea Ringli

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

Sugarlump and the Unicorn
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

There’s No Such Thing as Unicorns by Lucy Rowland
Illustrated by Katy Halford

Unicorn! by Maggie Hutchings Illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Unicorn (and Horse) by David Miles Illustrated by Hollie Mengert

Where’s Peppa’s Magical Unicorn? created by Neville Astley
and Mark Baker

The Unicorn Prince
by Saviour Pirotta
Illustrated by Jane Ray

If I Had a Unicorn
by Gabby Dawnay
Illustrated by Alex Barrow

And for older readers:

I Believe in Unicorns
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Gary Blythe

Captain Sir Tom Moore: One Hundred Steps

Illustrated by Adam Larkum

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, London, 2020

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve

This wonderful picture book is about Tom Moore and his pledge to walk 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday to raise funds for all the NHS health workers in the UK. I remember seeing him on TV being knighted by the Queen and thinking that here were two people facing each other, similar in age, having witnessed and lived through almost 100 years of world history. One was royalty and the other an ordinary individual. Both, in their own ways, making and leaving their marks on the world.

Simply by walking, and declaring his intent to raise money, Tom Moore garnered the attention of the world, and reinforced the idea that you are never too old to have an adventure, make a difference and be the change that you would like to see.

In this picture book, the story of Tom’s life is told humbly, and with a sense of humour, and reflects a time gone by when the world was quite a different place. We learn about his love of cooking with his beloved mum and Tom’s passion for racing and riding motorbikes. Tom was 19 when WWII was declared, and he was sent to Burma when he joined up. Fortunately, Tom came home from the war and met Pamela, together they began the next stage of life’s adventures and soon had children of their own. There were many ups and downs, but family and love sustained him through it all. Even in his 90s, Tom made the trip to see Mt Everest, a long-held dream that finally became a reality for him.

Adam Larkum has illustrated this story with gentle humour and grace, enhancing the text and giving us an almost photographic glimpse of the world that Tom knew and lived. Scattered through the story are Tom’s pearls of wisdom:

“The first step is always the hardest, but unless you take that first step, you’ll never finish.”

You can do and be anything you want.”

“For those finding it difficult: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away. Remember that tomorrow will be a good day.”

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below I have suggested other picture book biographies that have inspired me:

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter

On a Beam of Light
by Jennifer Berne
Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Born to Fly by Beverley McWilliams Illustrated by Timothy Ide

Wednesday is Jim Day
by Catherine McLeod
Illustrated by Andrea Radley

So She Did: the Story of Mary Wirth by Simi Genziuk
Illustrated by Renee Treml

Miss Franklin by Libby Hathorn Illustrated by Phil Lesnie

Anne Frank by
Ma Isabel Sanchez Vegara Illustrated by Svetlana Dorosheva

The Little Stowaway
by Vicki Bennett
Illustrated by Tull Suwannakit

Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson

What Miss Mitchell Saw
by Hayley Barrett
Illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look Illustrated by Meilo So

Marco Polo by Demi

Marie Curie by Demi

Ned Kelly by Mark Greenwood Illustrated by Frane Lessac

24819508. sx318
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Albert Namatjira
by Vincent Namatjira

Drover by Neridah McMullin Illustrated by Sarah Anthony

The Cat Man of Aleppo
by Irene Latham &
Karim Shamsi-Basha
Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Never Lose Hope
by Mark Wilson

Corinne Fenton: To The Bridge – The Journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Illustrated by Andrew McLean

Published by Black Dog Books, 2020

Corinne Fenton has written a wonderful story about a young boy named Lennie and his horse Ginger Mick, both born on the same day in 1922 and destined to ride together 9 years later to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s hard to imagine the spunk and bravery of a 9 year old boy and his trusty horse, being able to navigate the road to Sydney, some six hundred miles away, without a mobile phone, google maps or pre-booked accommodation. And just as hard to understand, that his parents thought he was more than capable of the task ahead and helped and encouraged Lennie to fulfil his dream. Andrew McLean’s illustrations thoughtfully reflect the enormity of the undertaking – my favorite page being the one where the family are gathered around the table looking at maps, the father hovering over his son’s shoulder and the mother with arms crossed, standing close by,  looking apprehensive yet proud.

Corinne has included biographic details at the end of the book with photos of the real Lennie and Ginger Mick, and a reminder of the importance of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, employing many workers at the time of the Great Depression.

If you would like to read more about this extraordinary story, look out for this title – Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney By Pony, written by Stephanie Owen Reeder, published by National Library of Australia, 2020.

I can highly recommend this picture book, most suited for 5-8 year olds.

If you like this book, look out for these titles by the same author:

The Dog on the Tuckerbox Illustrated by
Peter Gouldthorpe
Bob the Railway Dog
Illustrated by
Andrew McLean
A Cat called Trim
Illustrated by Craig Smith
See the source image
One Elephant’s Story
Illustrated by
Peter Gouldthorpe