The Fastest Tortoise in Town

The Fastest Tortoise in Town
Howard Calvert and Karen Obuhanych
Walker Books

Barbara Hendricks, narrator of this story and describing herself as ‘just a regular leopard tortoise’, is troubled. The reason is that in just a week she is to participate in a running race. Now although the entrant has no self confidence at all, her owner and best friend, Lorraine, is optimistic about the outcome of the fun run and sets up a daily training schedule for her pet. However this only serves to make the shelled creature all the more downcast at her prospects. They’re overtaken by, in turn, an absentminded worm a newly toddling human, a great-granda’, a remote controlled toy and an out-of-control vacuum cleaner – enough to dampen any contestant’s spirits.

Not so Lorraine’s who encourages her pet saying, “Just run your own race.” Nevertheless come race day the tortoise is a bundle of nerves. Surely all that training isn’t going to be for nothing: Barbara will never find out if she stays in her shell so off they go to the stadium.

Children (and adults) will have a good giggle at the sight of the other contestants at the starting line – ‘the fastest animals I’ve ever seen’, the narrator tells us.

Off they all go with Barbara employing her ‘put one foot in front of the other’ strategy over and over again until … And the winner is? Who do you think?

Then, with a nod to a certain Aesop’s fable, Calvert delivers a wonderful surprise ending.

Full of pathos, Karen Obuhanych’s mixed media illustrations are a hoot and will surely have youngsters rooting for Barbara from the outset.

Certainly a winner in my book, this.

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