"Castillo, whose winning artwork has appeared in numerous picture books, including Emily Jenkins’ What Happens on Wednesdays (2007), makes her writing debut in this sensitive title. “I ask Mom for a dog like that, but she says, ‘Too big,’” says a young boy as he walks with his mother down a street in their city neighborhood. At the zoo, a monkey catches the boy’s eye, but Dad says, “Too much work.” Then, at the park, the boy spots a turtle, names him Melvin, and convinces his parents to bring him home only to realize, after Melvin mostly hides in his shell, that the turtle would be much happier back in the park. With pared-down, rhythmic words and mixed-media illustrations filled with spot-on body language and details from an urban child’s world, Castillo elevates the familiar theme of a child’s unrequited yearning for a pet, adding a welcome twist when the boy, not the parents, is the first to recognize that Melvin belongs in the wild. A spread of turtle facts closes this well-crafted, gentle offering, which should find wide appeal."
"Castillo’s illustrations, rendered in acetone transfer with watercolor and markers, have a soft visual texture, nicely aligning with the story’s quiet nature. Subtle humor punctuates the narrative as the boy diligently tries to play with his pet, whom he calls Melvin (“because Melvin is a good name for a turtle”). But the turtle “is hiding…[dis]likes pretzels…is shy…doesn’t even want to meet the other pets…[and] tries to sneak away.” Melvin finally emerges from his shell when the boy gives him a bath before bedtime, making him think that perhaps the turtle wants to return to the pond. The next day, the family returns Melvin to the pond, and the boy watches him swim toward two sunbathing turtles. Castillo deftly captures the child’s conflicted feelings with a tender expression of sorrow, his brow furrowed and his hand held to his mouth. The final image of three turtles together, facing a silhouetted, distant picture of the boy walking away with his parents, lends a comforting symmetry to the story as the boy says, “I can’t wait to visit him tomorrow!” Emotionally true and therefore highly satisfying." (Picture book. 3-6)
"Castillo’s expressive artwork gently sets the boy in the center of a friendly, bustling cityscape and deftly conveys his longing for an animal friend, the joy at finally achieving that goal, and the ultimate realization that perhaps a wild animal belongs in the park, not leashed or cooped up in an apartment."
"In her authorial debut, about a boy whose experiment in turtle ownership doesn't quite work out, illustrator Castillo's (Alfie Runs Away) gently outlined drawings help to soften a potentially disappointing situation. Melvin fulfills the boy narrator's parents' conditions for pets--he's not too big, and he doesn't demand too much work. But he's withdrawn ("When I take Melvin outside to meet my friends, he is shy," says the boy as his friends surround a firmly shutup shell), and he's not very active, either. "I have to carry him all the way home," says the boy, his red leash fastened to Melvin's shell, which sits stolidly on the sidewalk. The boy's parents offer surprising support, allowing their son to bring Melvin home from the park, but the decision to return Melvin is the boy's own: "[W]hen I set Melvin free, he goes right into the pond where two other turtles are sunbathing.... ‘We should let him stay here,' I say." It's an honest account of a small, manageable failure, with a lemonade-from-lemons moment at the end: "I can't wait to visit him tomorrow!" Ages 4–8. (July)
"An unnamed boy longs for a pet. At the park he finds a turtle that, unlike other proposed pets, is not too big, not too much work, and not too noisy. His parents allow him to bring Melvin home, but he stays in his shell and shows no interest in playing or taking a walk, although he does seem to enjoy swimming in the bathtub. The child concludes, “I don’t think Melvin likes it here. I wonder if he misses his friends….” Next morning, the family members return Melvin to the park and make plans to visit him there. The story demonstrates the incompatibility of a wild animal with a human household and encourages readers to enjoy these creatures in their natural habitats. Acetone transfer with markers and watercolor are used to create opaque, thick-lined sketches with a charming old-fashioned feel. The narrator lives in an urban multicultural neighborhood that has a timeless look to it. The simplicity of the illustrations effectively conveys the straightforward story. This is a realistic and useful look at human/animal interactions. " (PreS-Gr 2)
Thanks to Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, PW, and SLJ for such lovely write-ups!