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Melvin and the Boy

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo; illus. by the author Primary Holt 40 pp. 7/11 978-0-8050-8929-5 $16.99 g
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A young boy desperately wants a pet—any pet. His parents veto every suggestion from the familiar to the exotic until, remarkably, they approve the acquisition of a wild turtle that resides in the city park. The turtle, now named Melvin, remains hidden in his shell as the boy attempts to include him in human pastimes; eventually, a harmonious conclusion is reached. Castillo's expressive artwork gently sets the boy in the center of a friendly, bustling cityscape and deftly conveys his longing for an animal friend, the joy at finally achieving that goal, and the ultimate realization that perhaps a wild animal belongs in the park, not leashed or cooped up in an apartment. Although facts about turtles are included at the back of the book, the true lesson comes from the boy's dawning respect for the natural relationships between humans and other animals. Danielle J. Ford
PreS-Gr 2—An unnamed boy longs for a pet. At the park he finds a turtle that, unlike other proposed pets, is not too big, not too much work, and not too noisy. His parents allow him to bring Melvin home, but he stays in his shell and shows no interest in playing or taking a walk, although he does seem to enjoy swimming in the bathtub. The child concludes, "I don't think Melvin likes it here. I wonder if he misses his friends…." Next morning, the family members return Melvin to the park and make plans to visit him there. The story demonstrates the incompatibility of a wild animal with a human household and encourages readers to enjoy these creatures in their natural habitats. Acetone transfer with markers and watercolor are used to create opaque, thick-lined sketches with a charming old-fashioned feel. The narrator lives in an urban multicultural neighborhood that has a timeless look to it. The simplicity of the illustrations effectively conveys the straightforward story. This is a realistic and useful look at human/animal interactions.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
A boy desperately wants a pet. His parents veto every suggestion until, remarkably, they approve his acquisition of a wild turtle from the park. Castillo's expressive art sets the boy in a friendly, bustling cityscape and deftly conveys his longing for an animal friend, joy at achieving that goal, and realization that a wild animal shouldn't be cooped up in an apartment.

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