Kirkus Reviews Starred Review: Memoirs of a Tortoise

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

A tortoise reflects on a year in its life. Oliver is an 80-year-old tortoise and lives in a sunny, flowery, tropical-looking landscape with his “pet” white human, Ike, who’s also 80. The two are dear friends, and Oliver reflects on how he and Ike love each other and how they have their comfortable daily routines (“Oliver, fetch” says Ike, and they both laugh). But one day Ike is gone, and Oliver, saddened, makes the trek (10 gardens away) to talk with his 137-year-old mother. This gentle, poignant, and humorous story presents the themes of friendship, loss, and appreciation of life’s moments from refreshingly different perspectives: narratively from Oliver’s point of view and visually from the low vantage afforded by Oliver’s stature. Both work wonderfully. The story is both heart-rending and uplifting as Oliver leads readers on a tortoise-speed journey of his quiet moments in the garden and his graceful acceptance of change. It’s also terribly funny in its memoir aspect (“A banana for dinner”) and in the speed (or lack thereof) of Oliver’s journey to see his mother. Bowers’ vibrantly colorful illustrations bring the Florida-like landscape to life with full-bleed single-page– and double-page–spread illustrations while the choice to use an illustrative perspective mainly from Oliver’s close-to-the-ground view gives readers a strong sense of being right there. An unusual and wonderful gem.

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