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Book Review: Turtle Boy by Evan Wolkenstein


'Will Levine has two passions in his life, the local wildlife reserve behind his school and the turtles he has found there. The rest of his life is a bit of a disaster in his eyes – he is given an unkind nickname at school, due to a facial difference, he has to cope with an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and he has a community service he needs to fulfil for a boy who is confined to a hospital room. Then, to make matters worse, the county plans to sell off the nature reserve. Plus, there is a looming surgical procedure for Will – who hates having blood tests, never mind anything else.

How can he make these things work for him – how can he survive it all, when all he really wants to do is look after his turtles and hide away.'


If your child liked 'Wonder', they will surely enjoy Turtle Boy. Will Levine was never conscious about how he looked, until some bullies started to torment him about his chin in fifth grade. Two years later Will is about to start seventh grade, and is absolutely dreading it. All he can think about his people making fun of him, to the point he actively avoids going anywhere where people will look at him. The only thing he really enjoys is taking care of and studying his turtles, besides walking the nature trails of Back 40 behind the school. At the same time, Will is still grieving the loss of his father due to a surgical complication and is terrified of the idea that he may have to undergo jaw surgery.

At the age of 12, Will is having to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah, which includes participating in community service. This is a nightmare for Will as this subjects him to being seen by many, many strangers. When Will finds out his community service involves being there for another young boy called RJ in hospital, Will is terrified! His main two fears are 1) being looked at, and 2) being in hospitals. After a rocky start, RJ shares his bucket list with Will, and they end up becoming great friends. Unfortunately, RJ has an incurable disease that is slowly worsening, so Will makes it his mission to complete the bucket list with RJ as soon as possible despite Will's aversion to anything outside of his own bedroom.

Through RJ, Will realizes how wonderful it really is that he is able to go out and do things as simple as swimming or going to a concert, chin or no chin. A really lovely read perfect for young children that tackles ableism, loss, grief, facial difference and of course, turtles!

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