A captivating tale about a charming tortoise.

Buddy Comes to Breakfast

In this nonfiction illustrated children’s book, a trip to a Western state leads to an endearing acquaintance with a reptile.

When Emeigh (Cafeteria Covenant, 2012) traveled to the Mojave Desert in Nevada to see her friend Amelie, she also met the woman’s small, brown tortoise, Buddy. Buddy lived in Amelie’s backyard, and throughout the visit, it entertained the author by munching on broccoli and local plants, taking baths, crawling in and out of its den, and even chomping gently on Emeigh’s foot at one point (“I discovered his mouth was sharp and hard like a bird’s beak. It pinched!”). The young desert tortoise, whose shell displayed “yellow-orange hexagonal shapes,” enjoyed a varied diet. “One thing that Buddy really likes to eat is Aloe,” Emeigh observes, while noticing that the reptile didn’t seem to relish weeds. The tortoise’s gender was still a mystery: “It will take almost five years to determine whether Buddy is male or female. Among other distinctions between the sexes, males have longer tails, and a larger gular horn under their chins.” Although the book is essentially a description of the tortoise and its activities, lyrical writing (“the desert exhaled heat as we made our way to the car in the airport parking garage”) helps to engage the reader in the tale’s sensory details. Additionally, the anthropomorphization of Buddy and the expression of the relationship between the tortoise and the author provide a narrative thread that makes the story cohesive. Because the account is entertaining, it manages to slip in facts without making them seem dull or dry. Before the yarn’s end, the reader learns that Buddy can hear and smell “very well” and possesses excellent eyesight and a well-developed sense of taste, among other trivia. A mix of gorgeous watercolor illustrations and sharp photographs by Emeigh accompanies these facts. The pictures, like the descriptions, help to invoke strong senses of place and character that ground the work. The book’s only flaw is an occasional gap in information. For example, words like “brumation” are thrown into the narrative without any explanation of what they mean. (A glossary at the end defines brumate as a state of “prolonged” inactivity for reptiles, similar to hibernation.) But, given the volume’s overall strengths, readers’ curiosity should be aroused enough to prompt them to look up any unfamiliar words in the glossary.

A captivating tale about a charming tortoise.

Pub Date: July 11, 2015


Page Count: 34

Publisher: Livingwell Seed Co. Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments.


The junior senator from California introduces family and friends as everyday superheroes.

The endpapers are covered with cascades of, mostly, early childhood snapshots (“This is me contemplating the future”—caregivers of toddlers will recognize that abstracted look). In between, Harris introduces heroes in her life who have shaped her character: her mom and dad, whose superpowers were, respectively, to make her feel special and brave; an older neighbor known for her kindness; grandparents in India and Jamaica who “[stood] up for what’s right” (albeit in unspecified ways); other relatives and a teacher who opened her awareness to a wider world; and finally iconic figures such as Thurgood Marshall and Constance Baker Motley who “protected people by using the power of words and ideas” and whose examples inspired her to become a lawyer. “Heroes are…YOU!” she concludes, closing with a bulleted Hero Code and a timeline of her legal and political career that ends with her 2017 swearing-in as senator. In group scenes, some of the figures in the bright, simplistic digital illustrations have Asian features, some are in wheelchairs, nearly all are people of color. Almost all are smiling or grinning. Roe provides everyone identified as a role model with a cape and poses the author, who is seen at different ages wearing an identifying heart pin or decoration, next to each.

Self-serving to be sure but also chock-full of worthy values and sentiments. (Picture book/memoir. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984837-49-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.


From the They Did What? series

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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