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The Fastest Tortoise in Town

Howard Calvert, ill. Karen Obuhanych
Walker Books
Age 3-7 years

Lorraine wants her tortoise Barbara Hendricks to take part in a local fun run and organises an impressive training regime for her. Barbara isn’t keen on this idea and just wants to curl up in her shell.  All the training pays off on race day however when she successfully competes against her competition which  includes a sloth and a snail (the best of the best in Barbara’s eyes!)

Told from Barbara’s perspective, this is a story about perseverance, encouragement and believing in yourself. It is a very enjoyable picturebook, with lots of humour, great illustrations and a clever link to Aesop’s famous fable, The Hare and the Tortoise at the end of the story.


Share the story

Read aloud
Read the story aloud to your child emphasising Barbara (the tortoise’s) feelings as you read.

Join in
Once your child becomes familiar with the story encourage them to join in with parts of it, for example the race itself or what happens on each day of the week.

Encourage your child to tell the story using the illustrations to guide them.

Talk about the story
▪︎Unfamiliar vocabulary eg stamina, muscles, sloth
▪︎Choose favourite pages and talk about why you each like them
▪︎Talk about Barbara’s feelings at different points in the story

Things to make and do

Make a banner or a poster

Suggest your child makes a banner from a long piece of paper to encourage Barbara Kendricks in the race as we see Lorraine doing early in the story or alternatively makes a poster advertising a fun run ( similar to those on the title page of the book).

Act out a fun run

Collect together some animal soft toys or figurines and have a fun run like the one in the book – your child could choose one of the toys to be Barbara and the other toys could be her competitors. This would be more fun for your child if you join in, and one of you commentates on the race at the same time.

Plan a family fitness routine

Look at the training routine Lorraine creates for Barbara and make up your own together. Can you keep it going for a whole week?!

Make an information book

Encourage your child to make a mini zig zag book about tortoises (see the link below for some fun facts). Or they may like to find out about different slow animals such as a sloth, a snail, or a slow loris as well as tortoises and record what they find out in a mini book.

Find out more

▪︎Find out 5 fun facts about tortoises
▪︎Watch a video about Bertie, the fastest tortoise in the world, a Guinness Book of Records world record holder!

▪︎Find out about the author Howard Calvert

▪︎ Read another book by Howard Calvert Lots of Frogs illustrated by Claudia Bulot

▪︎Find more books illustrated by Karen Obuhanych