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

Corrinne Averiss: Love

Illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman

Published by Words & Pictures, The Quarto Group, 2020

There is a story in our family about a time when I did not pick up my daughter from primary school. It wasn’t an end of school day pick up at 3.30pm with all the other mums and dads. On this day, it was close to midnight and a chartered bus was delivering children home from school camp. I had waited up sitting on our couch and made the fatal mistake of closing my eyes just for a minute. I woke suddenly to the phone ringing with a concerned teacher on the other end of the line. By the time I got to the school, my daughter was the only child left, standing alone and tearful in the dark, with a teacher by her side.

These moments stay with us. Separation and anxiety are real fears for everyone.

This beautifully illustrated picture book helps young readers to visualise love like a piece of string, connecting us to our family and friends, even when they are not close. Like a warm scarf or a shining light, the strings of love connecting us to those we cherish can envelop us, make us feel safe and help us endure moments of anxiety.

When young Tess goes to school for the first time, she is worried that the string of love connecting herself to her mother will not stretch far enough without breaking. A kind teacher reassures Tess that her mother will return, and a new friend talks about his string of love connecting him to a parent who has died. Tess discovers that everyone has connections that unite them to others, even when they are far apart.

But what happens when Mummy is late to pick Tess up from school and she is left in the classroom with her teacher after all the other children have gone home? Can strings that have been broken, be reconnected again?

The illustrations in this picture book are endearing and heartfelt. I can highly recommend this story for young readers 4-6 years, especially for those who are starting school for the first time and feel anxious about taking the first step. Below are more picture books which explore the concepts of separation and anxiety, love and connectedness:

Ten Beautiful Things
by Molly Beth Griffin
Illustrated by Maribel Lechuga

Starting School by Jane Goodwin Illustrated by Anne Walker

The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I Am Absolutely Too Small for School by Lauren Child

Lucy and Tom Go to School
by Shirley Hughes

Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn Illustrations by Ruth E. Harper
and Nancy M. Leak

Come to School Too,
Blue Kangaroo!
by Emma Chichester Clark

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Maddie’s First Day
by Penny Matthews
Illustrated by Liz Anelli

The Pigeon HAS to go to School!
by Mo Willems

Lena’s Shoes are Nervous
by Keith Calabrese
Illustrated by Juana Medina

Llama Llama Misses Mama
by Anna Dewdney

The Red Thread by Grace Lin

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson

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Bear and Rat by Christopher Cheng Illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Anna Walker: Hello Jimmy!

Illustrated by the author

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2020

Depression, loneliness, separation and divorce, can be difficult topics to tackle in picture books. Depending on your experiences, the story can validate how you feel or help you to understand how someone else might be behaving, especially if that someone else is a person you love. Sometimes people can withdraw from life and relationships, making it hard to be the one who is on the outside of that formidable barrier.

How to help, how to respond, how to show compassion and empathy can be challenging. The road to recovery is not always straightforward. There can be many twists and turns, big backward steps and tiny steps forward. Sometimes it is hard to articulate just exactly how you feel through it all.

Anna Walker has dedicated this picture book to her brother, someone she loves who has been through the experience of separation from his partner. In the story, we meet young Jack visiting his dad who seems lonely and sad, the house is quiet and the normal routines are not what they used to be. Jack and his dad are finding it hard to make meaningful connections in this new way of being together.

That all changes with the arrival of a very loud, green, feathery and unexpected visitor!  Jimmy the parrot is found on the doorstep after a storm, and his presence shakes up everything. Suddenly Jack’s dad comes alive, the house is noisy with squawking and Jimmy’s antics bring neighbours in to see the clever parrot.

It’s great for Jack’s dad, but Jack doesn’t like surprises and he doesn’t like Jimmy. The parrot’s arrival hasn’t changed the way he and his dad connect. In fact, it seems to have made Jack seem even more invisible. One night, Jack leaves his bedroom window open and Jimmy flies away.

This is a pivotal moment for Jack. On the one hand, he feels a sense of release because Jimmy is no longer a distracting presence in the house. On the other hand, he also feels guilty because that green, noisy and provocative bird seemed to be the catalyst for his dad’s happiness and interest in life again…and now it is gone.

The rescue mission doesn’t bring Jimmy back, but it does make father and son realise just how much they mean to each other, with or without a cheeky parrot in their lives!

There are lovely, intimate details in the artwork of this story: toasters, socks, newspapers, pots and pans, stray power cords, the messiness of home. There is also tenderness in the tale of how change can affect us and those we love.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 4-8 years and below there are more suggestions for picture books which explore the themes of depression, loneliness, loss and separation:

Love Waves by Rosemary Wells

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic Illustrated by Olivier Tallec

The Colour Thief by
Andrew Fusek Peters
Illustrated by Polly Peters

Thank Goodness for Bob by Matthew Morgan

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

The Cloud by Hannah Cumming

Emily’s Blue Period
by Cathleen Daly
Illustrated by Lisa Brown

Two Homes by Claire Masurel Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson

Two Nests by Laurence Anholt Illustrated by Jim Coplestone

Ride the Wind by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino