Old Turtle: Questions of the Heart

illus. by Greg Ruth. 56p. ebook available. Scholastic. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780439321112.
Gr 1–4—In this third outing, enough time has passed that many no longer believe that Old Turtle truly existed. A group of five people of varying ages and ethnicities who have "questions that [haunt] their sleep and [trouble] their waking hours" visit the Old Woman whose grandmother found Old Turtle when she was a child. She joins them in their quest, and after wandering through the mountains, they are drawn to Old Turtle, who answers them each in turn, dispensing her wisdom. Some of the topics are weighty—delving into the meaning of life and the nature of evil and death—but the children ask about family and play in a way that seems remarkably untroubled. Unlike the first volume, this one features no explicit mention of God, widening the audience to include those who are spiritual but not religious. Less inclusively, the book conveys the message that having a mother and a father is the norm for families. Ruth's pencil and watercolor illustrations are suffused with a glowing warmth and delicate beauty that invite the eye to linger.
VERDICT Lacking a compelling plot and presenting complex, sometimes unrelated themes in a lengthy text, this is best for digesting in chunks one-on-one or in small groups. Purchase where the earlier Old Turtle titles are in demand.

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