Author: Richard Buckley
Illustrator: Eric Carle
Audience: Ages 3 – 7
Summary: The Foolish Tortoise is a delightful tale about a young tortoise’s desire to quickly see the world. This story illustrates our human desire to live life in the fast lane, to hurry up and go.
Literary Elements at Work: There are two distinct and equally compelling literary devices that invite the listener/reader along on this adventure—rhyme and artistry. For example, in an effort to see the world in “double speed,” a tortoise removes his heavy and cumbersome shell. Without his protective home, he must now face all the hazards the world has to offer exposed and vulnerable—a hornet’s drone sends him hiding under a stone, a hungry bird swooping fast looked so fierce and flew so fast… Additionally, known for his attention to detail, particularly when rendering insects and animals, Eric Carle manages to tell the tortoise’s tale using expression, movement, and color.
Scripture: The prophet Isaiah strikes at the heart of this adventure when he says, “[t]hus says the LORD, [I] have created you…formed you…called you by name…redeemed you…because you are precious in my sight…and honored, and I love you. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring…I will gather you…” (Isaiah 42, selected verses, NRSV).
Theology: Echoing Isaiah, the 5th century Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine wrote in his confessions, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Humans, and maybe even tortoises, have a tendency to wander away from our protective shell—God, though the way without God will always be fraught with danger and fear. After our tortoise’s very scary journey, he loses the urge to roam…returns home…climbs back in…and says, “Good night.” Ah, sweet rest at last. Our hearts are indeed restless until they find their rest in God.
Faith Talk Questions:
Sit down beside your child. Let her turn the pages. Ask her what kinds of animals and insects and reptiles she sees on each page. Go outside and look for these creatures in your backyard. Ask her, “What might be scary about a fast and hungry bird? What might be scary about a big fish? What might be scary about a snake with his wide open mouth? Read the first page. Ask her, “Why does the tortoise want to take off his shell? What might happen when he takes off his shell?” Read the rest of the story. In the book the author uses the word “hound” for dog. Ask her, “What does a hound say?” The author also uses the word “hare” for rabbit. Ask her, “What is a hare? Have you ever seen one?” In the story, the tortoise takes off his protective shell and encounters all kinds of dangerous situations; the tortoise is scared. What does the tortoise do when he is afraid? Hides under a rock…hides behind a tree, etc… Ask your child, “What do you do when you feel afraid?” Tell your child what you do when you feel afraid. Children’s cognition is qualitatively different than adults. Young children are concrete thinkers. In order for something to be real, children need to hear, taste, feel, smell, or see it. So, tell your child about a specific time when you were afraid. Pay attention to detail. Answer for her why you were afraid, when you were afraid, what you were afraid of—who, what, where, when, how. Answer for her what you did and do to overcome your fear—say a prayer, turn on a light, shut a door, call a friend, listen to music, read a Bible story. Tell your child that no matter where she is, what she is doing, when she is there, how afraid she is, etc… she can say a prayer to God. Tell her that God created her; God formed her; God called her by name. Why? Because God loves her. God has always loved her and always will love her, just like you do. A child can understand the way her mother loves her; therefore, a child can understand the way God loves her. Her mother has demonstrated her love concretely. Tell her all the ways God has, is, and promises to love her. This will be a lifelong endeavor.
Review prepared by Union-PSCE in Charlotte student Kim Lee
The Foolish Tortoise by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.