I felt so bad after realizing yesterday that I’d never reviewed Truman by Jean Reidy and Lucy Ruth Cummins that I’m going to take a quick break from talking Hallowe’en to talk about a little tortoise named Truman.
That’s Truman and Sarah, smiling at each other. Aren’t they cute?
Yes, yes they are.
Truman is a rare gem of a story: managing to be sweet without ever becoming cloying. The story is of the friendship between Truman (the tortoise) and Sarah (a little girl), told from the perspective of Truman when Sarah is gone for longer than usual (you know, because she’s gone to her first day of school). Truman is distraught and realizes he has to go after Sarah, but, well, he’s a small tortoise in a tank. How can he do that?
Being a tortoise of unusual grit and determination he makes it pretty far before Sarah finally returns and they find each other again with full joy!
So it’s a story of separation anxiety, of the pain of losing your friend and the joy of finding each other again. There’s the wistfulness of Truman missing Sarah, and the silliness of thinking about a tortoise climbing out of his tank to go find a girl, and my favourite moment of all: Truman’s BRAVE DETERMINATION TO GO AFTER SARAH!!!
(Yeah, that’s Queen of the Sea back there… it was a good book day, I admit.)
But ultimately, the story is about love and reunification, not about the ache of separation. Sarah comes back. Sarah will always come back. And Truman will always be there for her.
How, I ask myself, does such a sweet story manage not to be cloying?
Well, in large part it’s because of the tenderness and realism of the story. The love is there, but it’s grounded in realistic moments: Sarah kissing her finger and touching it to Truman’s shell is lovely and entirely plausible. While Truman’s daring escape and bravery are anthropomorphic, for sure, Jean Reidy never has him doing anything a tortoise can’t do. It’s all very grounded and sensible, just part of a story.
But I also credit Lucy Ruth Cummins’s art with creating an atmosphere that is perfectly child-friendly and perfectly unsentimental. You see above that I couldn’t help but capture that moment of Truman’s bravery for you. I almost feel bad about that– I cracked up the first time I flipped the page and saw that picture, and I worry I’m spoiling the moment for you!– but I had to show you the glorious determination that overtakes Truman!
I’ve got to run (to the book shop) but I couldn’t let another day go by without giving you a heads-up about this sweet, cuddly, warm-hearted book. Read it with your four-year-old, then try to resist their proposal to get a pet.
(Get a pet. Pets are good for kids.)