This true story takes us on the journey of a friendship between Stewart, a young Kiwi soldier, and Torty, a tortoise that Stewart rescues while in Portugal. Through this tale, the reader learns about how life was for injured soldiers during World War I and how a tortoise that had also suffered gave them cheer. The friendship between Torty and Stewart continues beyond the war as they travel back to New Zealand and more adventures unravel.
The text covers many of the issues that people encounter in war such as reluctance to harm others, poor conditions and feelings of fear and helplessness. It also gives an underlying message of hope and the importance of remembrance. The classic style and muted colours of the illustrations complement the writing perfectly.
Although this story is interesting and heart-warming, I struggled with the flow of the first half. The introduction of how Stewart and Torty met made me want to read on, but when we jumped back in time, I found it uncomfortable in a picture book.
The year 4 class that I read this to mostly enjoyed that Torty’s adventures were actually true. I think the real strength of this story is that it can be enjoyed on different levels while also providing an opportunity to discuss the experiences and emotions of soldiers and their families.
Title: Torty and the Soldier
Author: Jennifer Beck
Illustrator: Fifi Colston
Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand
Date of Publication: March, 2017
Reviewer: Kirsten Puddick
School: Holy Cross School, Wellington