Published: 15th February 2022
Publisher: Tundra Books
Illustrator: Yong Ling Kang
Format: Picture Book
★ ★ ★ ★ – 4 Stars
Bernadette and Rodney are the best of friends. Rodney’s not so good at playing cards, but he’s great at staring contests. His favorite food is lettuce, though he eats it VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY. And he’s such a joker! When Bernadette goes to sleep at night, Rodney is always there, watching over her from his tank.
As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette feels all alone. She can’t stop thinking about him, but none of her friends seem to notice. Except for Amar.
With a title like this you know going in it’s going to make you sad, and yet I persevered. I’m glad I did because it is a beautiful story Forler has created about acknowledging that even though Rodney isn’t a conventional pet, or one you could play with in the traditional sense, he still was a pet and Bernadette had all of the same feelings that go with that.
Kang’s illustrations are absolutely adorable. The expressions on Rodney’s face is delightful and the pictures of him and Bernadette having fun together are beautiful and simple watercolours. The watercolours vary from small pictures beside relevant text to full page or double page spreads. I liked how the pictures changed size for their purpose and Rodney was kept as realistic as possible even in all of Bernadette’s activities.
Forler describes grief in a way children can understand, the feeling of hurt in your stomach that won’t go away, and feeling sad that the normal things you would do are different. The symbolism of Bernadette going into her shell is clever and it’s great how Forler uses Amar as an outside force to get Bernadette to come back to the world.
The ending is simple and sweet and Forler doesn’t feel the need to explain anything to the reader. It’s a bitter sweet tale of old friends and new friends and finding a new path after losing someone you loved.
You can purchase Rodney Was A Tortoise via the following
QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository
Dymocks | Wordery | Angus and Robinson