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by Cece Meng ; illustrated by Jago

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-16809-3
Publisher: Philomel

When Old Turtle dies, his friends remember.

The text is in white, dropped-out letters on dark and glowing full-bleed backgrounds, which take place in the waters of the sea. The animals are only slightly anthropomorphized visually, but their thoughts and emotions are very human. The word “death” is never used, but the story opens with Old Turtle (probably not the same Old Turtle as Douglas Wood’s) on his last day, when he “swam his last swim and took his last breath.” The other turtles remember how he taught them to swim; the sea otters remember how he loved to play and laugh; a starfish and a manatee remember how Old Turtle rescued them from danger. After each glimpse at an animal or animal community that Old Turtle touched, the refrain emphasizes they will always remember. The final page sums it up: “he made his world a better place. / When he was done, the ocean took him back.” Without mentioning a deity or religion, the text discusses how people remember those who have died and how their lives go on beyond them.

Understated, unsentimental, and gently done.

(Picture book. 4-8)