See new sights. Hear new sounds. Think new thoughts.  

An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
New York Times Best Children’s book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019

A Parent’s Choice Gold Award Winner

A Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book


Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the trash trucks and the number eleven bus, which travels south. He never worries about the world below…until one day, when Sarah straps on a big backpack and does something Truman has never seen before. She boards the bus!

Truman waits for her to return.
He waits.
And waits.
And waits.
And when he can wait no longer, he knows what he must do.

Even if it seems…impossible!  

Picture Book, Ages 4-8, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9781534416642 (Hardcover)


“Emma Ledbetter at Atheneum has acquired world rights to Truman, a picture book written by Jean Reidy (l.) and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, about an ordinary little tortoise and the day that everything changes, when he has to find his most extraordinary self. Publication is set for summer 2019; Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary Agency represented the author and Emily van Beek at Folio Jr. / Folio Literary Management represented the illustrator.”

Publishers Weekly

“’Truman was small, the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet’ accurately describes a turtle who has a very close relationship with his Sarah. The tiny reptile knows something’s up when Sarah gives him extra green beans, buttons up a brand new sweater, takes a large backpack and leaves the apartment. Though she’s left him before, he’s unsettled by the activities of the morning, especially when he sees her through the window boarding a city bus. After waiting “a thousand hours,” and she still hasn’t returned, he makes the decision to go after her. His plans on how to get out of his aquarium, leave the apartment and board a bus make for an entertaining tale of love and (temporary) loss. Charming and humorous illustrations were created using gouache, colored pencil, charcoal and brush marker and finished digitally. Tiny Truman is endearing and his adoration, concern, and determination are reflected on his little face. VERDICT A heartwarming tale of devotion that will be enjoyed by children and their adults.”

School Library Journal STARRED Review

“A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.”  (Picture book. 4-8)

Kirkus STARRED review

“’Truman was small, the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.’ So begins the utterly heartwarming story of a tortoise and his girl, Sarah. Truman lives on a windowsill overlooking the big, loud city. When, one day, Sarah packs up her bag and boards a bus, Truman decides to do the impossible and go after her. He manages to escape his tank, journeying out over the couch and across the endless rug, but he finds that the world is much bigger and scarier without Sarah. Just as he prepares to go outside and board the bus, the front door opens, and Sarah returns! Children will be eager to hear what their pets go through while they’re away at school, and the uplifting story of friendship and bravery will satisfy widely. Using gouache, brush marker, charcoal, and colored pencil, Cummins has rendered in Truman a character so indisputably adorable that, coupled with Reidy’s soulful characterization, he will have readers of all ages falling in love.”


“Truman’s a tortoise; he’s ‘small, the size of a donut—a small donut—and every bit as sweet.’ A perceptive fellow, he senses change one morning as his owner Sarah eats ‘a big banana with her breakfast’ and ‘strapped on a backpack SOOOOOO big, thirty-two small tortoises could ride along.’ Specific quantities confer verisimilitude to this tale by Reidy (Pup 681): ‘Sarah placed seven green beans in Truman’s dish—two more than usual!’ Then Sarah ‘kissed her finger and touched it to his shell and whispered, ‘Be brave,’ ’ and boards the number 11 bus. Readers know she’s probably not gone forever, but Truman doesn’t, and he resolves to find his way down to the bus to retrieve her. Cummins (Stumpkin) contributes expressive, thick-lined drawings that delineate cozy scenes inside and out of Sarah’s city residence. The smallness of Truman’s world makes his expedition appropriately daunting—and funny—as he makes his way out of his tank and toward the door. Fortunately for Truman and his new fans, he doesn’t have to go too far to find his person. Observational humor, clear affection between Truman and Sarah, and bold adventure make this a memorable pet-owner love story.”

Publishers Weekly

“A girl. Her pet turtle. Her first day of school. From these simple elements Reidy (“Pup 681”) and Cummins (“Stumpkin”) spin an enchanting tale of bravery, heroism and undying devotion. Little Sarah lives in an apartment, and Truman’s tank is perched on a windowsill. When she leaves on a bus after some unusual preparations — ‘that backpack was particularly big,’ he thinks — he decides to make a break and find her. He makes it to the rug, but ‘without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.’ Cummins’s delectable art captures the warm, witty heart of the story.”

New York Times

“Most picture books chronicling the first day of school focus on the small humans
experiencing that rite of passage, but here the star is one such child’s intrepid pet
tortoise. Truman lives in the big city with ‘his Sarah,’ who leaves one day with a
backpack. She also places two extra green beans (uh-oh) in his tank and tells him
to be brave. When, from the window, Truman sees her board the #11 bus going south, he knows he will have to go after her. Thus begins his slow-moving jour-
ney…across the living room, the pink floor rug being the most daunting obstacle: ‘Without Sarah, their home seemed vast and uncharted and unsettling.’ Just as
he’s about to slip under the front door, Sarah returns, touched by his bravery and
determination. At the heart of this story, paralleling a child’s own first journey
into the unknown that is school, is the affectionate relationship between Sarah
and Truman (Sarah regularly kisses her finger and touches it to his shell), and
there’s much humor and drama in Truman’s exertions. Cummins’s relaxed-line, mixed-media illustrations bring the family’s cozy world to life, and the occasional use of a larger, bolder font emphasizes the heroics needed for Truman’s journey. This little creature has big courage, something to which small humans can relate.”

Horn Book

Truman the tortoise lives in a big city apartment with “his Sarah,” but one day Sarah abandons him to board the bus with a backpack “SOOOOOO big, thirty-two small tortoises could ride along in it”—and Truman is left alone for what feels like forever. Courageously, Truman ventures out of his tank and crosses the apartment (over a “tall, tall boot” and across an “endless rug”) to get to the front door, from where he plans to take the bus to get to Sarah. By the time he arrives at the door, however, Sarah has already returned from school; she’s pleased by his bravery, and Truman is proud of his determination. Cummins’ art is a soft mix of colored pencil and charcoal that, through compositions that depict Truman as one miniscule aspect of a much larger landscape, allow kids to understand Truman’s perspective as a tiny tortoise in the big city. This readaloud uses easy, large-font print and short lines, and it frequently mentions quantities of objects, helpfully enumerated for children who want to hone their counting skills (Truman is left with seven green beans, and the thirty-two tortoises that would fit in Sarah’s backpack are counted out). Truman’s seemingly small accomplishment will give readers and viewers cause to celebrate and appreciate the things they achieve every day, no matter the size.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“A sweet tortoise doesn’t know where his owner has gone when she leaves for the day with a backpack and takes the number 11 bus, so he sets out across the living room in an attempt to follow her. Truman’s determination and bravery will have readers rooting for him. The illustrations, especially those that show the tortoise’s view of his surroundings, are wonderful. A charming story about first experiences, being brave, and the love between a child and her pet.”

Literacy on the Mind

“Peaceful and pensive (and not bigger than a doughnut) describes Truman in a story about bravery, love and devotion.

Truman is a small turtle, who enjoys his life with his owner/friend, Sarah. All is peaceful until one day he notices she behaves slightly different. When she gets on Bus 11, his peaceful world slowly turns to worry. Until he discovers a new trait, bravery, and decides to find Sarah on his own.

Truman is adorable! He holds the calmness and devotion of a true turtle in every way, but allows himself to grow as the situation requires. His bravery comes in little steps, and for him, this is exactly right. The vast, scary world hits in a way young readers will sympathize with…and Truman is the perfect character to take it on. It’s easy to cheer for him, and his actions warm the heart. The ending opens up to a bright future, while staying as peaceful and calm as Truman…with perhaps, a tiny dab of possible adventure.

The illustrations carry the right amount of charm to let Truman do his thing. The reader is pulled into Truman’s world with simplicity and the right amount of warmth and love. Young listeners will be able to ‘read’ the story to themselves by flipping through the illustrations and discover things they might have missed before along the way.”

Bookworm for Kids

“This cute story about being brave in the face of uncertainty follows the concerns of a small turtle named Truman.  He notices when his girl, Sarah, starts behaving differently, giving him extra food, as well as putting on a sweater and a backpack.  And then he sees her get on the bus.  He’s never seen that before.  He waits and waits and waits.  Finally, he decides he’s waited long enough and sets out to find her.  At first it seems impossible, but as he looks around him he starts seeing possibilities where before he’d only seen the ordinary.  For a small turtle, he makes quite the journey and I have no doubt he would have continued on his way had it been necessary.  He persists despite the fears and challenges he confronts.  A back-to-school story that looks at things from a different perspective and honors the bravery and determination it takes to face the unknown, however big or small it might be.  A delightful book about a sweet friendship and a creative, brave friend who is determined to find his Sarah.

Geo Librarian

“I read picture books. I write picture books. And I share picture books with students of all ages.

I often go to Barnes and Noble or the library and pull handfuls of books off the shelves. After scouring the new releases, I settle in to read. As I open each book, my stomach twitters with excitement. Will this be my new working-with-teachers-and-students book? Will this be my new when-my-own writing is stalled mentor text? Or, will this be my new I-just-need-a-little-lift book?

Well, recently I stumbled upon the book TRUMAN by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, and it immediately became my all-of-those-things-mentioned-above book.

Set in one day, Truman’s Sarah leaves him alone as she goes off to the first day of school. After waiting and waiting and waiting, Truman (he’s a tortoise, by the way) decides it’s time to find his Sarah. And his journey begins.

TRUMAN is the kind of book that can be read in classrooms over and over again. The words Jean Reidy uses to describe Truman, such as proud and brave, pensive and peaceful, will help students name their own feelings and describe themselves, not only on the first day of school but whenever they face a challenge or something ‘unsettling.’  In addition, Jean Reidy leaves room for the reader to make sense of what’s happening. She leaves room for the reader to stop and think. For example, the only words on one page (a really important page) are, ‘Just then:’. As readers’ eyes sweep across the page, we see a dandelion on the floor with an exclamation point over it.  What are Truman and the readers to make of that? Jean Reidy trusts us to figure it out.

In addition, Lucy Ruth Cummins’ illustrations provide more depth and layers to the story—calling attention to point of view and perspective. The different ways she illustrates the rug, first from a bird’s eye view to show how ‘endless’ it is, and then really close up, from Truman’s perspective, to show how treacherous it looks (safety pins and rocking horses included). Even her use of light adds meaning to the story. I’m so excited to discuss with students the many ways they can learn about crafting their own stories by reading this book, but also the many ways, as illustrated (pun intended), they can view the world. See why it’s my new working-with-teachers-and-students book?

TRUMAN, is also the kind of book authors can turn to when their writing is stalled. We can study her word choice—her ability to show not tell. Jean Reidy didn’t write that Sarah was off to her first day of school. She leaves us clues, like Sarah’s sooo big backpack, or that Truman receives two extra green beans today, and that Sarah whispers to him to “be brave.” We have to figure out where Sarah went, just like Truman. Another compelling aspect of the text, when I read like a writer, is how Jean Reidy skillfully gets the readers to route for Truman from the start. In the opening pages we get to know Truman juxtaposed to where he lives. Although he lives in a noisy city, he is not noisy. ‘He is peaceful and pensive, just like his Sarah.’ It’s lines like these, that give the reader a sense of place, as well as personality.  It’s lines like these that remind me to look closely at the lines in my manuscripts to confirm that the words I’ve used match the mood and heart of my story.  See why it’s my new when-my-own writing is stalled mentor text?

TRUMAN is also the kind of book I want other people to experience. I’ve been carrying a copy in my bag—sharing it with anyone who will listen. When people finish reading the book, their shoulders are a bit lower, their jaws a bit looser. And a pensive, peaceful, calm overcomes them. See why it’s my new I-just-need-a-little-lift book?

TRUMAN is simply a beautiful book that I recommend to teachers, parents, writers, and readers. Basically, everyone.

Thank you, Jean and Lucy for bringing Truman into the world and sharing him with us.


Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D. for Nerdy Book Club
All materials © 2020 Jean Reidy. Author website by Websy Daisy. Shelly the Turtle designed by Genevieve Leloup.