Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Release Spotlight: Templeton Turtle Goes Exploring

Templeton Turtle Goes Exploring
By Ron Pridmore
Illustrated by Michele-lee Phelan

Meet Templeton turtle, fresh out of the egg and ready to explore. But what happens when he wanders too far from his mother? The result is a beautifully illustrated and well-written story that captures what it is like to live in a community of diverse members who look out for one another when someone is in trouble.

When Templeton hatches from his egg, he immediately goes off on his first adventure around the pond where he lives. His mother warns him of dangers, but he has to see them for himself to believe her. Along the way he meets a grumpy blue heron named Mr. Blue, a quiet snake, a nice frog named Mr. Longlegs, and Mrs. Raccoon and her four babies. Only some of the animals are friendly to him—namely Mr. Longlegs and Mrs. Raccoon—so imagine Templeton’s surprise when he finds himself in the path of three scary cattle, and the one who saves him from being trampled is Mr. Blue himself, the grumpiest of all the animals.

While the theme of helping one another is an important one, its execution needs some work, particularly where the characters are concerned. In general, the rhythm and sequencing of Templeton’s adventure feels out of sync in places. Repetition is important in books like these—in which the main character encounters different animals and situations—in order to give it a powerful hook for children. While Templeton’s walk is varied, there are no repeating sequences or sentences to give it further meaning or to increase the tension. What’s more, every animal Templeton meets has a name except the snake, who slithers away without a word. This interaction felt choppy because he was able to interact on some level with all the other animals, who not only have names, but are more developed as well. These kinds of details are important for uniformity and consistency.

The endearing part of the story is clearly when Mr. Blue helps Templeton escape from danger, even when he had been gruff with him before. Earlier when Templeton had met him and asked him his name, Mr. Blue scowled and said, “Young turtle, go home. You are scaring away the fish!” That’s why it is such a surprise when Mr. Blue takes him out of harm’s way. When Templeton is safely back with his mother, she tells him, “Whether we have fur, feathers, flippers, wings, scales, or shells, we all watch over each other down here by the pond.” There is a great lesson in community here, but it could have been more powerfully rendered if each animal helped rescue Templeton in some way, with Mr. Longlegs swimming to tell the snake, who slithered over to Mrs. Raccoon, who found Mr. Blue and told him what was happening. This would further show the important community and diversity of the pond by showcasing each animal’s talents and abilities.

Despite these few problems, Templeton Turtle Goes Exploring is a great read for kids who love nature and the outdoors. The illustrations by Phelan really make the story come to life, and the book design was also a nice change from some other children’s books out there. This is a great book to incorporate a child’s newfound interest in nature, and would be beneficial for teachers to read to their students before doing an outdoor lesson in biodiversity or habitat. Such vivid images of the natural world will truly inspire children to further explore their natural surroundings

Review by Andrea Deeken, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1-934454-21-3
Publisher: Bridgeway Books
Pub date: July 2008
Hardcover: $14.95

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