________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 33. . . .April 30, 2010.


Tortoise Races Home. (Tadpoles).

Jill Atkins. Illustrated by Beccy Blake.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.) $18.36 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3902-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-3871-8 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Readers (Primary).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Devon Greyson.





“I will race you all

home,” said Tortoise.

The other animals

laughed, “You are

too slow,” they said.

As the sun sets over their playing field, Tortoise challenges his friends, Rabbit, Squirrel and Mouse, to a race home. The other animals laugh at Tortoise's idea, boasting about their speed and agility. However, Tortoise has the last laugh when he points out that he is home already, in his shell!

     Putting a clever spin on the “Tortoise and the Hare” fable, Tortoise Races Home is one of Crabtree's “Tadpole” series of books for emerging readers. The story is under 100 words total, of which most are easy-to-read phonetic or sight words for beginning readers. Ample context is given for the few more difficult words (e.g., laughed), such that children are likely to work them out for themselves. The print is clear and large, with high contrast to the background and not too much text on any page.

     Writing a spin-off story related to a familiar fable is a great strategy for success with emerging readers who have background knowledge of the plot but limited reading experience. Additionally with a humorous twist at the end, Tortoise Races Home rises above many limited-vocabulary, easy-reader books. Children (and adults) easily bored by repetitive entry-level readers will enjoy this story.

     The coloured pencil and watercolour illustrations that accompany the story are nicely done, with the pictures emphasizing the text and punchline well. Visual context cues for the words are clear, and the anthropomorphic animals are amusing. At the end of the story, there are a pair of puzzles for young readers: one with a series of pictures that the child is asked to put in the correct order, and the other with vocabulary-building words (e.g., clever, boastful) to match up with characters.

     Overall, Tortoise Races Home is a well-designed early reader book. The text is appropriate and fun, the illustrations are nice and contemporary looking, and the plot is familiar yet interesting. The hardcover edition reviewed had reinforced library binding which would stand up well to heavy library or classroom use. This book would be a strong addition to a collection of bookshelf for early readers.

Highly Recommended.

Devon Greyson is a librarian at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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