Series: Gertrude & Toby Fairy Tale Adventures
Author: Shari Tharp
Illustrator: Jim Heath
Publisher: Atlas Publishing
Release Date: Jan. 9, 2017
Buy Links: Amazon & Other Retailers
My Rating: 4 Delightful ♥'s
Gertrude the goat and Toby the tortoise are going fishing at Trout Lake for their Friday adventure. While at the lake, they see a little boy being dragged off by a hungry wolf! They follow the wolf and rescue the little boy, but the wolf doesn't give up. He goes after them, determined to get his lunch back!
Gertrude and Toby Meet the Wolf is an exciting adventure story for children who are transitioning from beginning readers to chapter books. This is the perfect book for the child who has been tasked with the usual 30-minutes-per-night reading homework. From the standpoint of reading progression, this title fills a specific niche that represents a gap in the children's book market--longer illustrated children's books that are more complex and challenging than typical picture books.
Gertrude and Toby Meet the Wolf incorporates many traditional fairy-tale characters that will be immediately recognizable to many young readers. These characters include the Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, and of course, the Big Bad Wolf. The presence of these fairy-tale characters adds familiarity for young readers and keeps alive the old tales (e.g., those by the Brothers Grimm) that we have all come to know and love.
The first and second books in the series, Gertrude and Toby's Friday Adventure and Gertrude and Toby Save the Gingerbread Man, follow the same approach, incorporating fairy-tale characters in contemporary settings. These are modern stories with more complex plots and wording than those of standard picture books, but without the daunting word count of typical beginning chapter books.
Gertrude the goat and Toby the turtoise head to the lake to fish in this third installment of the series. While debating the best bait (worms or beetles), they see a boy who continues to cry "Wolf!" Later, they see the boy captured by the wolf and decide they must help him. Before it's all over, the three little pigs are involved in the big save. The combining of fairy tale characters adds to the fun and excitement of the story while adding to the familiarity of the story for the target age group of six to eight year old children. I had the opportunity to read this to my nephew, and he absolutely loved it. The characters of Gertrude and Toby are funny and adventurous, giving children a shining example of friends helping friends while also entertaining them. The illustrations in this series are delightful (some of the best ever!) and just plain fun! This is a great read for young children! Sure to be a bedtime favorite! A Must Read!
Spotlight on Author Shari Tharp:
● Talk about your journey into the world of writing and children’s books.
About three years ago, my son asked me to read him a bedtime story, but it was very late and I told him, “No, it’s too late.” He replied, “Well just tell me a story then.” So I told him a story about a goat and tortoise who go on adventures. The next night he asked for more of the story about the goat and tortoise. So I made up a little more about the goat and tortoise’s adventures. By the third night, the goat and tortoise were going to a candy store, but they didn’t realize they had to pay for their candy, because the market owner had given each of them a free sample and told them to “help themselves.” By that point (the third night), the characters had started talking and dialoguing, and that’s when I thought, “This could be a good story; I better write this down!”
● What made you decide to intertwine fairy tales into your books?
Well, when I started telling my son the bedtime adventure stories about the goat and tortoise, I wasn’t a fast enough thinker that I could create brand new characters to the story on the fly. So I just added familiar fairy-tale characters that the goat and tortoise met along the way. And those characters remained true to their fairy-tale natures as I incorporated them into the goat and tortoise story. :)
● Gertrude & Toby are adorable characters. What sparked them to life in your mind and what convinced you to star them in your books?
My son was always asking for a “baby goat” (which we were definitely not going to get!). And my sister has a tortoise (it wandered into her yard one day). I assigned the goat and tortoise names—Gertrude and Toby (alliteration, of course!). When I first wrote the story, all the characters sounded the same when they spoke, and when I shared the early versions of the Gertrude and Toby story (book 1) with family and friends, somebody mentioned this. I realized that I needed to better differentiate the personalities of the characters. So I looked at the actions I had Gertrude and Toby performing and realized that Gertrude was the impulsive leader. Toby is more careful (slow like a tortoise), but also smart and a smart aleck as well. I also liked the idea of best friends being able to razz each other a bit and joke around with each other. So I started the “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” question-and-answer exchange, with Toby always answering in a smart-aleck way. Some reviewers and readers have considered Toby dim-witted as a result. That was not my intention, but that’s OK. That’s the beauty of books/stories—they should be descriptive, yet open and subtle enough for individual interpretation.
● What can readers expect from Shari Tharp in the future?
More published books I hope! Seriously, I am working on a Granny Frog series. It’s about a grandma frog who babysits her grandfrogs while the parents work the night shift at Toadstool Farm. But of course when grandma comes, it’s playtime. The children know they can get away with maybe having a cookie before dinner and not always following the strict rules their parents usually have in place. Another funny twist is that Granny tells the froglets bedtime stories about her life growing up. You know … like having to hop five miles uphill to a new pond when her family’s pond dries up, etc. I’ve also written a cute slug story and am working on a story tentatively called The Giant’s Castle.
● Share the top five things you never leave home without!
Hmmm … lip balm, a credit card, my cell phone, different colored pens (red, blue, purple, black, and green), and a stack of my books in my trunk!
Shari Tharp is a graduate of San Diego State University and a former teacher. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and son. Her debut book, GERTRUDE AND TOBY'S FRIDAY ADVENTURE, won a silver medal IPPY award for Best Illustrated Ebook.
The next two books in the series, GERTRUDE AND TOBY SAVE THE GINGERBREAD MAN and GERTRUDE AND TOBY MEET THE WOLF, are scheduled to be released in late 2016.
In addition to writing, Shari enjoys playing chess, hiking, biking, and reading (of course!).
Illustrator Jim Heath:
Resides in Southern California with his family
Full-time graphic designer and illustrator
Originally from Huntington Beach, California and is still an avid surfer