A tortoise tourist and his desert-rodent buddy make their way to the Grand Canyon to exchange recipes in this travel adventure by debut author Ahern and veteran illustrator Brooks (Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society, 2016, etc.).
Tino the tortoise and Rudi the jerboa, who live in the Mojave Desert, decide to travel to Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest to present a new recipe for pine seeds to Penny, a Kaibab squirrel who’s bored of eating her favorite meal the same old ways. Tino is apparently a savvy traveler; when Rudi says that they should go on a trip, Tino immediately makes plans and starts booking tourist excursions. After a train ride to what a helpful owl calls a “big hole in the ground,” the friends take a mule ride, do some whitewater rafting, and finally make it to the north rim of the canyon and the ponderosa pine trees where the Kaibab squirrels make their home. During their journey, the friends ask directions at every stop, which allows readers to learn more about the squirrels and their habitat but also contrasts with Tino’s pre-made travel plans. Brooks’ humanoid animals experience the Grand Canyon in the same ways that a young human visitor might. The casting is clever: a park ranger is a raccoon (reminiscent of Ranger Rick); a cougar rents out unflappable (nonhumanoid) mules; and a ranch-owning rabbit warns the travelers against getting in the way of big-horn sheep or sitting on rattlesnakes. Brooks depicts the humanlike animals differently enough that it doesn’t feel strange for other, more traditional animals to act like their real-world counterparts. The descriptions of the travelers’ adventures are appealing, and kids are sure to want to experience them in person. Details about animal habitats and traits, particularly those of the rare Kaibab squirrel, may also help spark an interest in nature. Some pages are dense with text, which may intimidate some younger readers, but the pictures are dominant enough to hold lap-readers’ interest.
Grade-schoolers interested in science and nature—but not too old for talking animals—will find a lot to interest them here.