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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Tortoise and the Soldier: A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I

Middle School Nonfiction

G/A. Foreman, Michael. The Tortoise and the Soldier: A Story of Courage and Friendship in World War I. Henry Holt, 2015. 120p. 978-1-62779-173-1. 16.99

Henry Friston was a gentle and courteous elderly gentleman living in a small town in England. Everyone in town knew that he had brought a tortoise back from his time on the front lines in World War I, but few, if any, knew the whole story. Young Michael Foreman (the book is based on his own recollections), a cub reporter, convinces Mr. Friston to tell him the tale of how Ali Pasha the tortoise had become his lifelong friend. Over many visits and much tea, he relates the details of his time in the war and how a tortoise had fallen on him while he was hiding from shells at Galipoli. Foreman does an excellent job of conveying the terror of a young man away from home who fears he may never return. The reader really feels she is there visiting the charming old man and witnessing him finally tell his tale. Simple and quite lovely paintings, also by the author, are featured throughout. Oddly, Foreman seems determined to limit the book's usefulness for school reports. There are no maps, no timeline of World War I, and no indexing. In fact, there is no sense of who fought in WWI and what it was about. Animal lovers and those seeking a non-traumatic war story may enjoy it. Philip Levie, LAPL Panorama City.

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