First, a confession. This post is not solely about picture books. For, while I am smitten by
I am truly smitten by all the works of this writer, Michelle Cuevas. She tackles deep topics beautifully with a feather touch. On her website, she says that she mostly writes about people (and animals, shadows, space creatures…) who feel alone and long to find connection. Don’t we all?
In the Town of Turtle, we learn of Turtle who’s alone and unhappy with his home, his dull, boring, and dark shell.
Turtle lived in a part of the world as empty as a bird’s nest in December.
Turtle’s best (and only) friend was his shadow.
“Shadow,” Turtle would say, looking down. “From here, you look just like a puddle.” Or, “Shadow, is this the very street where we first met?”
The shy shadow made no reply.
Needless to say, Turtle spent a lot of time in his shell. It was very dark inside—as dark as the inside of a closed flower, as dark as the underside of a bell.
But in the dark, Turtle dreamed.
Turtle dreamed about a better home. So he decided to make some renovations to his shell.
Now, I’m thinking that turtle is dreaming big, from what I can tell from this illustration. And he is.
Turtle begins massive renovations and additions that include a deck, a fireplace, a garden, a boat and boat dock. Why stop there? He builds houses, a library, a school, and a skating rink. Why stop there? A Ferris wheel at the very top. He builds until the last drop of sunlight and paint is used up.
Then he sleeps the “sleep of a broken pocket watch.”
And while he sleeps….You remember the saying “If you build it, they will come.” Well they do. All sorts of crazy people show up. And one of my favorite lines, too.
The wind moved into the trees, laughter moved into the houses, and light moved into the dark.
Turtle’s home and world is now as colorful and filled with friends as his dreams. And when it goes dark, this is where the story turns into a bedtime book.
That night, when Turtle was tucked cozy into his shell, he called out to his town.
He called good night to the painter. Good night to the sailor.
Good night to the ballerina, the mailman, the inventor, the baker.
Good night to the one tightrope-riding unicyclist.
Good night to the wind, and the laughter, and the light.
Good night to everyone, everyone in the Town of Turtle.
There are so many layers to this book, it’s incredible.
- A dream, a decision, and an action, making changes for a better life
- Making friends
- Being a visionary
- Finding a way to come out of your shell
- Building a world for yourself through creative play
- Welcoming everyone, not just those who are like you
- Being generous of spirit
Not to mention some beautiful sentences and illustrations (gorgeous acrylic, pencil, and paper collages). I highly recommend!
Title: The Town of Turtle
Author: Michelle Cuevas
Illustrator: Cátia Chien
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Pair this one with the magic of The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.
Now, if you’re also looking for early middle grade novels? I can recommend the two I’ve just read:
Beyond the Laughing Sky: about a mysterious bird-boy who longs to fly.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole: about a young girl who’s lost her dad and ends up losing everything else, including herself inside her pet black hole. Filled with some terrific scientific facts, metaphors, and, yes, hilarious moments.
I’m now starting her third MG novel: Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir By Jacques Papier. I expect it to be just as fabulous.
MIchelle Cuevas is a talented stylist, one who will stay with you.