Incredible, imaginative and slightly surreal with appealing and deeply atmospheric illustrations, this is a must-buy 5-star book.
Tortoise lives in a rusty bin next to the children’s playground. His bin is cosy, warm and dry all year round – even in winter. He should be very happy but he’s also very lonely. He’s tried searching for the other animals but he has never found them. Then, one night, while he is gazing at the sky he sees lots of twinkling lights. He assumes it’s the other animals holding their own little candle lights just like him. This is his chance to find them. So, the little tortoise sets off on his adventure…
Space Tortoise. What a seriously inspired idea! The concept alone practically sold this book and, once I realised Ross Montgomery had once again teamed up with the amazingly talented David Litchfield, I knew I simply had to own this book.
The story itself is classic Ross Montgomery with its incredible imaginative concepts and slightly surreal elements. It has everything a picture book needs from pathos at the beginning (poor tortoise searching high and low in the playground for the other animals) to laugh out loud actions (when tortoise is searching through the desert across sand dunes and past crumbling castles – i.e. the sandpit) to a conclusion that fills the reader with the warmth of hot chocolate.
Granted not every part of the plot-line is entirely believable. For example, it’s rather convenient that Tortoise just happens to have and old book in his bin filled with pictures of spare rockets, and his candle-powered trash balloon is a little far-fetched. However, I (and I’m sure the child readers will join me) am more than happy to suspend my disbelief and embrace this magical story.
While the story is practically genius in its own right, David Litchfield’s illustrations take the book to another level making this 5-star story deserve 6 or 7 stars (if that rating out of 5 was possible).
Given all the action takes place at night the pictures, under a less-skilled illustrator, could have been dark and dull. They are the exact opposite. Yes, there is a fair amount of dark but the contrast with the light from the stars, candles and clock face bring the illustrations to life and ensure every picture is deeply atmospheric.
The only final thing to mention is a warning to parents – you might want to make sure children aren’t inspired to wander around with a candle or tea-light like tortoise. Or, if they are, perhaps consider getting hold of a battery operated one!
If you enjoyed this, why not try Building Boy also by Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield. Alternatively, I’ve made myself a note to get hold of some of David’s other, awarding-winning picture books, starting with The Bear and the Piano.