Southwest Children's  Literature

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Life in the Slow Lane: A Desert Tortoise Tale

Book Review:

This picture book about desert tortoises, set in the Southwest, exposes children to a range of facts, about both tortoises and their desert home. Grandfather tortoise teaches his granddaughter about their native surroundings, ancestors, history and the importance of respecting and preserving our natural habitats.

Written by Conrad Storad, not only does this story expose children to the above themes, it is also a great introduction to the use of literary devices like rhyme and repetition. The rhyme scheme is present from beginning to end helping to re-enforce for children the information they are learning. The chorus: "Oh its life in the slow lane. The slow life for me. The tortoise's way is the best way to be" is repeated to create continuity and to encourage participation and involvement in the reading process.

Nathaniel P. Jensen's illustrations aid in moving the story forward and re-enforcing grandfather tortoise's lessons through visual cues. The characters and landscape are rendered in a style reminiscent of cartoons. Still, the Southwestern setting will be easily recognizable to children of all ages. Although the desert is typically viewed as a muted colorless landscape, Jensen does a great job of demonstrating the true vibrancy and diversity of the desert through the use of bright, natural color.

Curriculum Connections:

Tortoises and Turtles: the similarities and differences
In conjunction with Life in the Slow Lane teachers/parents could also read a title such as Jabuti: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon (for younger audiences) or The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit (for older readers), a variant of which is reviewed on this site.

Respect Your Environment:
The text demonstrates to young readers the need for sensitivity among the human population toward nature and non-human inhabitants that share our environment.

Traditions and Heritage:
With multi-generational characters, readers will see knowledge and the importance of our ancestry being passed from one generation to the next. Grandfather imparts his wisdom to his granddaughter and at the same time helps her to understand her roots.

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