Two eggs find themselves in the same pen in a London zoo, and when they hatch, a turtle and a tortoise emerge.
The turtle and tortoise think of all the fun they’ll have together. “We shall be best friends,” they agree for a quick second, until the turtle dubs them “the Terrible Turtle Twins!” Suddenly, the tortoise is affronted. “I’m not a turtle,” he says, and goes on to explain that “a turtle is a horrid beast with rough skin and a hard shell,” whereas he, the tortoise, is “a handsome creature with a hard shell and rough skin.” The turtle and tortoise decide it would not make sense for them to be friends given their differences, and they spend many years apart and resolutely do not talk to each other. When their lives are (literally) upturned one day, the question arises: Can the turtle and the tortoise overcome their differences to help themselves and each other? Reiss’ subtle wit (which takes ample advantage of tortoise and turtle racing speeds) and Spires’ nearly identical turtle and tortoise highlight the absurdity of what it means to be different. The passage of time is marked by the fashion of passers-by, who grow more diverse with the decades. Although some readers may take exception to the zookeeper’s unexplained assertion that “all tortoises are turtles,” the book’s underlying message of tolerance and acceptance is worth sharing.
Humorous and deep. (Picture book. 4-7)