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Melvin and the Boy

Melvin and the Boy

by Lauren Castillo

When a little boy sees a turtle basking in the sun at the park, he thinks he's found the perfect pet. But when they get home, the boy soon discovers that the only time the turtle comes out of his shell is at bath time. Is it possible that the turtle would be happiest back in the pond? After all, it's always bath time there!

Lauren Castillo's beautiful art gives


When a little boy sees a turtle basking in the sun at the park, he thinks he's found the perfect pet. But when they get home, the boy soon discovers that the only time the turtle comes out of his shell is at bath time. Is it possible that the turtle would be happiest back in the pond? After all, it's always bath time there!

Lauren Castillo's beautiful art gives this gentle story about finding the right pet--and, in the end, doing what's right for that pet—a timeless, classic feel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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 But he's withdrawn ("When I take Melvin outside to meet my friends, he is shy," says the boy as his friends surround a firmly shutup shell), and he's not very active, either.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: "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)
From the Publisher

“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.” —Horn Book Magazine

“Emotionally true and therefore highly satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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.” —Booklist

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our young narrator really wants a pet, but when he asks his parents for a dog, or a monkey, or a bird, they always have an objection. Finally, when he sees a turtle in the park staring at him one day, he persuades them to let him keep him, and names him Melvin. Unfortunately Melvin does not prove to be an engaging or cooperative pet. Only when Melvin gets a bath does he emerge from his shell, and he is soon hiding again. Finally our hero realizes that Melvin is not happy with him, and may want to go back to the park. Melvin seems to be glad to be back with his friends. And readers should get the message. The naturalistic chalk-like images that move the story across the double pages, created using acetone transfer with markers and watercolor, are appropriate for the simple tale. The jacket depicts the two main characters discovering each other, while on the solid green background of the cover they are interacting, impressed in black. Melvin walks across front end pages through the park with the city in the background; on the back he is on the other side and it is night. We empathize with both the appealing actors. Two pages of "Turtle Facts" are included. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—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.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews

A boy wants a pet, but his parents turn down his requests until he asks to bring a turtle home from a pond in the park.

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 they boy says, "I can't wait to visit him tomorrow!"

Emotionally true and therefore highly satisfying.(Picture book. 3-6)

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
AD550L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Lauren Castillo has illustrated several titles, including the critically acclaimed What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins and Buffalo Music by Tracey Fern. This is the first book she has both written and illustrated.

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