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Book Review: Templeton Turtle Goes Exploring by Ron Pridmore

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Templeton the turtle is an adventurous young tyke. A real go-getter, he’s barely hatched when he asks his mother if he can go exploring. She consents with the condition that he remains nearby so that she can keep an eye on him. Like many youngsters he soon strays beyond his mother’s surveillance and is off on a solitary journey.

On this maiden voyage he encounters many of the residents of the pond that he calls home. Some of the local wildlife are stand-offish, others warm and friendly while still others are large and threatening to a tiny turtle. When the day is done Templeton is returned home to his mother with his shell intact by a helpful pond dweller. This brings the tale to the conclusion that those who dwell in the pond make up a tightly knit community who look out for one another.

Pridmore’s innocent prose brings this delightful story of exploration and community to life in a simple way that young children will resonate with. Though Templeton’s adventure has moments of tension they are all resolved when his friendly neighbour comes to the rescue. While the concluding statements about pond community life are not accurate from a strictly biological point of view — “Whether we have fur, feathers, flippers, wings, scales, or shells, we all watch over each other down here by the pond” — children will certainly find the lack of predation reassuring and non-threatening.

Illustrator Michele-lee Phelan’s watercolours are both realistic and stylistic. Each painting is framed with a green, leafy border, providing a lovely but somewhat redundant element throughout the book. The illustrations are already very uniform in their colours — greens, browns and blues — nothing too vibrant, all nature-toned. Templeton’s world is small, so there is little variation from scene to scene in the colour palette. While the colour choices are few, many varying shades are incorporated to produce depth and a feeling of realism.

While I found myself longing for some diversity within the illustrations, I must praise Phelan for her gorgeous, detailed work. My favourite aspect of the book is the turtle’s she has created; Templeton is absolutely adorable with his chubby baby cheeks, stubby frame and swirly shell designs. Phelan also excels in her work on the eyes of various pond denizens; they are wonderfully mysterious and expressive. The realism with which the characters are portrayed will definitely appeal to all nature and animal lovers.

Pridmore and Phelan’s work melds together to create an oasis of calm where a tiny turtle can embark upon an adventurous expedition while never leaving the watchful eyes of the pond’s community. Here we find the axiom “It takes a village to raise a child” applied to a situation quite unlike those it is normally employed in. Templeton the Turtle Goes Exploring proves to be a mild story, perfect for sensitive children like my own oldest daughter, who become distressed when too much tension is present. All is well.

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