New talent Swales creates a spare tale of friendship and support.
Big the tortoise and Little the squirrel “are a great team.” “They climb trees,” with Little hauling his less-nimble friend up to a branch with a rope. “They chew stuff,” both with looks of delight as they gnaw on cake and plants. “And they have races,” revealed to have a shocking finish; is Little displeased, or did he throw the race? But one day a sudden attack of anhedonia, depression, or just introversion drives Big to retreat into his shell. Little tries several ways to coax Big out, but in the end a simple hug turns the mood around. Readers never learn why Big feels the need to isolate himself or why a hug was the right move, but these questions leave open the possibility of discussion and identification with adults and children. Bright and blocky illustrations, reminiscent of Chris Haughton’s (Shh! We Have a Plan, 2014), add richness and joy to the text with especially pleasing facial expressions. There is a certain droll quality to the story that will appeal to an adult sense of humor, with a simple and sweet message for the younger audience.
The story may be predictable, but it’s also charming—worth lingering over, and more than once. (Picture book. 3-7)