Rodney was a Tortoise

Forler, Nan. Rodney was a Tortoise. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2022.
Bernadette loves her friend, Rodney. They have contests, play dress up games, and enjoy treats together. In the evenings, she reads him stories of the outdoors. At night, he sleeps in a tank beside her bed. The two of them are the best of companions. But one day, Rodney stops moving. He has died, and not even a funeral and remembering all the lessons he taught her can ease the grief. At school, everyone goes about their usual life, talking about their usual concerns, while she withdraws further and further into sadness until one day a classmate – Amar – comes to sit beside her out in the playground. And slowly Bernadette comes back to life. The soft watercolour and pencil illustrations by Young Ling Kang help tell this gentle story recommended for anyone who has ever lost a beloved friend.

Questions to talk about…
How do we gladly make accommodations for the weaknesses of our friends?
What have our friends taught us about how to live a good life?
How do we protect ourselves when in pain?
How do we reenter life after deep grief?

More stories of grief

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Every Dog in the Neighborhood

Stead, Philip C. Every Dog in the Neighborhood. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
If you like picture books, you probably already know that Philip Stead is a wonderful writer. If you’ve studied picture books, you already know that illustrations provide additional information to enhance the story. If you’re a teacher, you already like books that can be integrated into more than one subject. Well, this newest story by Stead is his most brilliant book yet. It’s as funny and heart-warming as the Moffat stories by Estes. Caldecott Medal winner Matthew Cordell’s illustrations are full of humorous details including a dog called E.B. who dreams of writing stories and a musician who owns two dogs called Thelonious and Monk. Younger students will be inspired to write their own letters and think of their own surveys to do after reading about Louis’s inventory of dogs. Older students will enjoy seeing how writers incorporate intriguing allusions requiring background knowledge to understand. Adults will appreciate Grandma’s complaints about city hall and how you sometimes just have to take care of things yourself. Highly recommended for everyone who likes picture books.

More dog stories

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Great Big Guinea Pigs

Roth, Susan L. Great Big Guinea Pigs. New York: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2006.

A fascinating history of guinea pigs told from the point of view of a parent telling a bedtime story: “Once upon a time, about eight million years ago, guinea pigs like us weren’t sweet, cute, and little….No one brought us fresh water or seeds and berries from the pet store….No one brought us to school for show and tell….”

But how can we be sure that this history really happened? The story was “in theTimes. Tomorrow morning,” the parent says,  “I’ll read it to you. You’ll have to wake up early, though, before the people clean our cage and change the newspaper.” Humorously, the bibliography at the end of the book includes an article from The New York Times

The cozy tone is complemented by vibrant collage illustrations and a bold font. Highly recommended for children and parents. 

More books to expand your general knowledge

More picture books that focus on information

A Wild Pet

Kelly, Jacqueline. Skunked! New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016.
Eleven-year-old Travis adopts two baby skunks in this historical novel for young readers. Set in a small Texan town in 1901, this easy-to-read story focuses on the younger brother of Callie, the main character in two previous novels for older readers: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. While this new novel still features Callie as narrator, the action centres on Travis and his escapades with two wild creatures. A great story for readers 7 to 11 years old. [Country life; historical fiction; naturalists; pets; skunks; Texas]

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