School Library Journal Starred Review: Memoirs of a Tortoise

Memoirs of a Tortoise, Written by Devin Scillian & Illustrated by Tim Bowers

Scillian and Bowers have teamed up on other “Memoirs” stories, and in each of these earlier collaborations, learning to appreciate what you have is an important theme. Appreciation for those who love you and understand you is a theme of this book, but the message is more poignant because one life has been taken by death and there will be no more tomorrows together. The main character, Oliver, is an 80-year-old tortoise whose “pet” human, Ike, who was also 80, has recently died. Prior to Ike’s death, the two lived in the moment, enjoying the simple pleasures of each day, from the warm sun to a tasty snack to the ever-changing face of nature. Oliver cannot imagine why he has been left alone, and he decides to visit his wise, 137-year-old tortoise mother for answers. She tells him, “We only get to have pets in our lives for a little while. …So we have to enjoy them every day.” Her answer resonates with Oliver, who returns home to forge a new friendship with Ike’s son. The pace of the story provides reflection time for readers, and the vibrant illustrations capture the joy to be found in meaningful relationships. VERDICT: A touching story about slowing down and appreciating those you love.

–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, Hillsborough, CA

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