Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tuke: the Specialist Turtle

Think of "specialist" not in the way that adults use the word, as in "she is a foot specialist," but the way kids use the word, "this is my specialist toy."  Got it?  This was my stumbling block in understanding the title, but my 8-year old got it right away. Now, you're ready to turn the page and read how Tuke realizes he is the specialist turtle.
Tuke the Specialist Turtle
We received a complimentary copy of Tuke and I had my little folks read this colorful picture book about a "tiny turtle Tuke, with long lanky fins, a pea-sized head, the neck of a gazelle and an enormous shell."  He's teased for his small size by the other sea creatures in the Caribbean reef. When he ends up in a marine study lab, he comes up with this thought that he is the "specialist" turtle.  Returned home, he tries to tell the others about his new title, only to be scoffed at again, until a whale shark agrees with him, confirming that he is the specialist and he has an important role to play in protecting their home.

Does it remind you a little bit of Nemo? Sure. But that's okay because kids love Nemo (at least mine do). And we can't remind our kids enough how each one of them is special and important, it's a message that bears repeating.

"With friends like these who needs anemones?"  That cracked me up.
Aside from the story and the message, this book does another thing well: it uses big words.  I love children's books that are challenging, but appropriate (sometimes hard, especially as they approach upper elementary and middle school, but that's another topic.)  This one, I would put on the elementary reading shelves, but it can span a few grades. Parents can read it with the real little ones and talk about the pictures - there's crabs and seahorses and whales and turtles and coral.  And older ones can read for themselves and learn new vocabulary (for spelling or definition), like carapace, brittle, mysterious, and specialist; and metaphors (how does a turtle have a neck of a gazelle) is big in elementary poetry and writing.

Tuke is published and distributed by Chowder Inc. and the Coral Reef Conservancy (CRC).  Chowder is a creative firm that specializes in travel, tourism and destination marketing. CRC is a non-profit whose primary goal is "to raise public awareness about the plight of coral reefs and their connection to humanity."  But don't worry, there's no big "come to the Caribbean" ad in the middle of the book.  Instead, it's an interesting collaboration to educate children about the environment in a way they will enjoy.  At the same time taking away a message about appreciating our own selves.

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