I thoroughly enjoyed The Building Boy, the first book that Ross Montgomery and David Litchfield created together, so was genuinely excited to learn about their second collaboration, Space Tortoise. I’m delighted that it exceeded my high expectations.
It tells the story of a tortoise who lives by himself in an empty and abandoned park. He’s content enough with his life, which is safe, secure and cosy, but he increasingly misses the company of others. One evening, as he gazes up at the sky, he comes to the conclusion that the twinkling stars are all candles which are being lit every night by the other animals. The tortoise decides that he wants to join them and so sets off on a journey across the park, in the direction of what appears to be a space rocket. When he arrives at his destination, he meets a friendly mouse who explains that things aren’t quite as simple as they first appear and that perhaps he should look closer to home for companionship.
The slightly naïve tortoise is an endearing character with an optimistic view of the world and young children will find it easy to empathise with him. His journey reinforces the important message that good friends are often not as far away as we sometimes believe. The use of figurative language throughout the story (the desert stretched far into the horizon, silent as a whisper…) complements the artwork beautifully. David Litchfield’s distinctive style makes it visually stunning, the contrast between light and dark being particularly outstanding. A large number of the pictures are double-page spreads, with so much for the reader to discover.
Space Tortoise is a simple, reassuring story about loneliness, friendship and the importance of being brave enough to explore our world. It would be an excellent choice of text to introduce such topics in a Key Stage One classroom. I sincerely hope that Ross and David have plans to work together again in the future, as it’s clearly an extremely successful combination.