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Children's Fiction Death & Dying

Rodney Was a Tortoise

by (author) Nan Forler

illustrated by Yong Ling Kang

Initial publish date
Feb 2022
Death & Dying, Friendship, Turtles
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2022
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2


This comforting and gently humorous picture book about bereavement and the strength of friendship shows how a child overcomes the sadness of her beloved pet's death.

Bernadette and Rodney are the best of friends. Rodney's not so good at playing cards, but he's great at staring contests. His favorite food is lettuce, though he eats it VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY. And he's such a joker! When Bernadette goes to sleep at night, Rodney is always there, watching over her from his tank.

As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette feels all alone. She can't stop thinking about him, but none of her friends seem to notice. Except for Amar.

Rodney Was a Tortoise is a moving story about friendship and loss. It shows the importance of expressing kindness and empathy, especially in life's most difficult moments.

About the authors

Nan Forler's profile page

YONG LING KANG is an illustrator who grew up in Singapore and is now based in Toronto, Ontario. She is fascinated by storytelling, and has honed her craft through picture books, Manga, cartoons, and formal schooling in an animation program. She has illustrated several picture books, including The Midnight Club, This House Is Home, and William's Getaway.


Yong Ling Kang's profile page


  • Short-listed, IODE Jean Throop Book Award
  • Nominated, Blue Spruce Award

Editorial Reviews

One of CCBC's Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2022), Starred Selection
One of Evanston Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids 2022

"Wry, observational writing and loose, frequently funny vignettes by Kang give this tale of loss its own distinctive, endearing resonance." —STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly
“Line breaks in Forler’s warm text slow the pace and focus on moments in time. Kang’s gentle watercolor and pencil illustrations touchingly depict this special relationship, making the inevitable all the more heartbreaking.” —STARRED REVIEW, The Horn Book
"Bernadette's happiness and grief both are conveyed through distinctive details in a narrative that adeptly balances a hard topic with moments of laugh-out-loud humor." Cooperative Children's Book Center
". . . [T]his gentle book may resonate, bring comport, and help children work through their feelings." —CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"The firm directness here makes this more an authentic exploration of grief than an assured comfort, and the focus on Bernadette's ongoing sorrow, especially as it contrasts with the bustle of an ongoing world, will resonate with readers who have suffered a recent loss or are still mourning one long past." Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books
"This is a heartwarming book about love, loss, friendship, and restoration. Children . . . who've lost a pet will be touched by this sweet tale." —Manhattan Book Review
"This is a touching story with sweet illustrations that will speak to kids of all ages." —Midwest Book Review

Other titles by Nan Forler

Other titles by Yong Ling Kang

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