Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Truman Book Poster Image
Tender story of brave pet's devotion to his missing girl.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Truman expresses the social-emotional skills of using his resources, persistence, and optimistic thinking. Shows what apartment life is like, high above the loud and bustling city.

Positive Messages

Love makes you brave. You can do hard things. It can make you feel proud to do hard things. The impossible is usually possible. When loved ones are gone, they are not forgotten. Hugs make everything better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Truman is a plucky and admirable character. He overcomes obstacles and fears in his quest to find his best friend, to whom he is devoted. Sarah and he both are thoughtful, peaceful, and immensely likeable. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and dark hair; other characters are racially diverse.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Truman, by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, is an epic pet-owner love story. A small pet tortoise named Truman faces the impossible task of finding his Sarah after she leaves their peaceful apartment with a big backpack and stays away for much too long. Sarah and Truman are incredibly relatable characters as they peacefully "play" together. Truman exhibits persistence, bravery, and optimism as he faces obstacles on his journey across the living room to the front door. Truman's determined pursuit of his owner shows youngsters that love makes you brave, doing hard things might help you feel proud, and that a hug can melt away all your worries. The art gives a miniature-tortoise's-eye-view of the world, which is sure to delight young readers. This sweet twist on a first-day-of-school story about the love of a tortoise for his little girl is a crowd-pleaser.

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What's the story?

TRUMAN, a tortoise the size of a small donut, lives with his girl, Sarah, high above the noisy, bustling city. He enjoys their quiet life in their peaceful apartment, but one day, Truman watches as Sarah packs a big backpack (so big 32 tortoises could fit inside), leaves him extra food, and gets on the bus he can see from his window, something she has never done. He waits "a thousand hours" before resolving to go find her. He must overcome obstacles both physical (furniture) and emotional (fear) as he crosses the expanse of the living room -- a space that now feels vast and uncharted without Sarah. Will he be able to muster up the bravery needed to reunite with his beloved owner?

Is it any good?

This wonderfully written and illustrated story reminds readers that doing hard things is something to be proud of, even if it may seem small to others. From the first page, when we meet Truman as he sits on a napkin adorably munching on a miniature tortoise-sized donut, there's a lot to love. Their apartment is a refuge from the loud, roaring city below. Truman shows genuine concern when Sarah leaves him behind. Readers will recognize his child-like devotion to Sarah and relate to his missing her. When he decides he must find her, he uses the resources in his environment (rocks, cushions, a boot, etc.) to begin his journey. Then, when he encounters the unsettling vastness of the living room rug, he stops, thinks, and musters up the courage to go on.

The gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digitally drawn art is simple and evocative. The reunion spread is particularly luminous, with Truman glowing in a sun-like halo that communicates how special he is to Sarah as well as the bigness of his accomplishment. With its tender story and captivating illustrations, Truman will be a fast favorite for kids and their adults.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sarah and Truman's friendship in Truman. How do you know they get along? What signs does Truman notice that tell him something is different on this day?

  • What character strengths does Truman show as he goes after Sarah? When have you had to show these strengths? How did you feel when you behaved this way?

  • Talk about the drawings in this book. How do they show the way Truman sees the world? Do any of the drawings show a different perspective?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship and animal stories

Themes & Topics

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