About the Holiday
For many children across the country August is the month for going back to school—or just starting on that journey. Some children eagerly look forward to spending the day in a classroom with other kids and learning new things from their teacher or teachers. For others the transition from home to school is a little more daunting. Finding ways to reassure hesitant students can go a long way toward happiness and success in school. Books can help! Through the experiences and feeling of all types of children and characters in picture books, chapter books, and middle grade and young adult novels, kids can share their feelings, whether they are excited or more uncertain about the school year ahead.
Written by Jean Reidy | Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Truman was a little round tortoise “the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.” He lived with “his Sarah,” who was just as quiet and thoughtful as he was, in an apartment above a busy street. One day, Sarah ate an extra-big banana, wore a new sweater, and strapped on an enormous backpack. She even gave Truman extra green beans for breakfast. Then before she left, “she kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered, ‘Be brave.’”
Truman got to thinking about all the new things he’d seen that morning. He looked out the window and saw Sarah getting on the number 11 southbound bus. She had never done that before. Truman waited and waited and waited for Sarah to return. At last, we could wait no longer and decided he would go after her, even if it meant catching the bus “amid the honking and the growling and the shrieking” of the street below. Of course, his tank might be a problem, but there was that nice rock pile….
In a moment he was out and traversing the soft pillows and rubber boots, wooden floor and “endless rug. Without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.” But as Truman reached the window, he realized that he couldn’t see the street at all and that he didn’t even know which way was south. Truman was beginning to lose heart. Then he heard, amid all the other sounds, the number 11 bus and Truman felt brave.
“He was just about to slip under the door” when it opened and Sarah walked in. She saw him immediately and was so full of wonder at his amazing feat. She gently put him back in his tank. Truman felt proud. Later, Sarah read him a story she’d written and he couldn’t wait for that day when Sarah would take him with her south where they would “see new sights and hear new sounds and think new thoughts…together.”
Jean Reidy’s sweet and surprising tale of a tiny tortoise with a big heart has everything you’d want in a story of friendship and new experiences. This adorable pair are two of a kind, ready to explore and meet new challenges. Truman’s trek from his tank to the front door is as daring as any grand adventure, and Sarah’s recognition of her pet’s bravery is reassuring and affirming for all those facing journeys of their own. Reidy’s gentle storytelling sparkles with evocative vocabulary and the kinds of perfect little details that draw kids in. As Sarah tells Truman to “be brave,” she could be encouraging herself as well, and their day, each successful in its own way, is something both can take pride in. Readers will relate to Reidy’s touches of humor and Truman’s indefatigable spirit.
Lucy Ruth Cummins’ stylish illustrations, rendered in a bright yet soothing color palette have a wonderful welcoming feeling as readers are introduces to Sarah, who has a delightful affinity for tutu-like skirts, and Truman, who likes nothing better than being close to “his Sarah.” Kids will fall in love with this tiny, adorable tortoise as he nibbles green beans, contemplates the differences in the morning routine, and makes his way across the rug and past scary toys to the front door. Kids will enjoy keeping an eye on the Sarah’s little yellow flower from page to page. The moment when Sarah finds Truman at the front door shines with their mutual love for each other, and their tender story time will captivate any child.
Endearing from beginning to end, Truman will be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534416642
Discover more about Jean Reidy and her books on her website.
To learn more about Lucy Ruth Cummins, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Back to School Month Activity
Follow the Turtles! Game
You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!
- Cardboard egg carton
- Green tissue paper in different hues
- Green construction or craft paper
- A marble, bead, or bean
- Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
- Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
- If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
- Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
- Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
- Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
- Let dry
- Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
- Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
- Add a face to the head
To play the game:
- Line up the cups on a table
- Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
- Show the other player which cup the object is under
- Quickly move the cups around each other several times
- Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
- Take turns playing
Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe!
You can find Truman at these booksellers
Picture Book Review