Alfie (The Turtle That Disappeared)

by Thyra Heder (Author)

Alfie (The Turtle That Disappeared)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Nia loves Alfie, her pet turtle. But he's not very soft, he doesn't do tricks, and he's pretty quiet. Sometimes she forgets he's even there! That is until the night before Nia's seventh birthday, when Alfie disappears! Then, in an innovative switch in point of view, we hear Alfie's side of the story. He didn't leave Nia--he's actually searching for the perfect birthday present for his dear friend. Can he find a gift and make it back in time for the big birthday party?

From the author-illustrator of Fraidyzoo and The Bear Report comes a warm and funny ode to friendship--even when the friends see the relationship, and the world, very differently.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

Every story has two sides, but some tales move at a turtle’s pace and require patience and a bit of good fortune.

For Nia’s sixth birthday, she receives a turtle. The little black girl names her new friend Alfie. Nia adores her new friend and eagerly introduces him to all her friends, declaring that Alfie is 6 like her. As much as she loves him, though, Nia soon runs out of things to do with her laid-back turtle friend, so she “kind of forg[ets]” about him. Before long, it’s time to celebrate Nia’s seventh birthday, and that’s when Alfie gets an idea. The second half of the book follows Alfie as he tries to find the perfect gift to repay the love he feels for the little girl who has shared so much of her world. Heder provides a story that doesn’t rhyme, but it does sing with childlike invention and honesty. Who hasn’t wondered what their pet was thinking or where it went that time it disappeared? With beautiful, expressive watercolor illustrations, including an astonishing, spare spread that marks the transition between Nia and Alfie as narrators, and clear, concise wording, Heder takes readers on a journey about what it means to be a child with a new pet who sometimes loses its luster but never its worthiness of love.

A perfect companion for a young pet lover or pet owner–to-be. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Copyright 2017 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission

Publishers Weekly

Alfie is a pet turtle, and his new owner Nia, an African-American girl with braided hair and plenty of curiosity, tries hard to find ways to relate to him. "I taught him my wiggle dance and made him presents," she says, "but he didn't seem to notice." Nia's interest cools somewhat; then, on her seventh birthday, Alfie disappears. After a pause indicated by a spread with no text, the story resumes, now narrated by Alfie. It turns out that he's been paying more attention than anyone knew: "Nia taught me how to dance!" he explains. "She gave me presents! I had never been given presents." Hoping to find the perfect birthday gift for Nia, Alfie sets out on a shopping trip, and Heder's story really begins to shine as Alfie gets help from Toby (the family hound) and a snail in the backyard. Her watercolor spreads are carefully executed with few stylistic mannerisms; all the attention is directed toward the characters. It's a treat watching Alfie deliver Nia the perfect birthday present--albeit a little late. Ages 4-8. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Oct.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2--A girl named Nia gets a pet turtle on her sixth birthday. She names him Alfie and the two of them spend a year together with Nia making every effort to include her pet in all her activities. But turtles will be turtles--not being the most playful or cuddly as pets go--and Nia loses interest. Then, on the morning of Nia's seventh birthday, Alfie goes missing. That's when the story changes from Nia's to Alfie's point of view, as the intrepid turtle goes on the hunt for the perfect gift for Nia's birthday. He first explores around the house, encountering the family dog, then ventures out onto the fire escape, down into the yard, and through a sandbox until he grows cold and tired. A friendly snail suggests that Alfie take a nap in the pond in the yard. Readers see the passage of time illustrated through the change in seasons from fall to winter and then spring, when Alfie wakes up from his "nap" and emerges from the pond just in time to celebrate what Alfie believes is Nia's seventh birthday. Readers will delight to see the two reunited and will notice that it is actually Nia's eighth birthday, as the number indicates on her birthday balloon. The beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations, which feature an African American child (and her family), offer readers lots of clues and thoughtful details. An author's note tells how the story is based on Heder's real-life pet turtle Alfie that she got when she was six. VERDICT A welcome addition to picture book collections perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.--Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Her watercolor spreads are carefully executed with few stylistic mannerisms; all the attention is directed toward the characters. It's a treat watching Alfie deliver Nia the perfect birthday present."—Publishers Weekly
Thyra Heder
Thyra Heder is the author of Fraidyzoo, an ALA-ALSC Notable Book, The Bear Report and the forthcoming Alfie: a picture book about the friendship between a girl and her pet turtle told from both points of view, available Fall 2017. She is also an illustrator and storyboard artist for film and advertising and lives in Brooklyn.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
October 20, 2017

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