One of the books recommended by Waikiki-Kapahulu librarian, Cheryl Robinson, was The Adventures of Gary and Harry: A Tale of Two Turtles written by Lisa Matsumoto with illustrations by Michael Furuya (see our post about Waikiki-Kapahulu Public Library).  This ended up being a very adorable, early reader book that would make a great story time read with a significant message.

The story is about two turtles—Gary the Green Sea Turtle and Harry the Hawksbill Turtle.  They are best friends who travel the ocean together, visiting a number of various sea creature friends such as an octopus, a lobster and a hermit crab just to name a few.

Throughout the story, the two turtles are inseparable despite differences like Gary being a vegetarian while Harry loves to dine on jellyfish.  The book teaches both friendship and diversity as these turtles, along with their other ocean friends, may have many differences both physically and habitually, yet live harmoniously in the ocean together.

One of the biggest messages in the story is that of caring for and sustaining our natural environment.  There is one terrifying moment in the book when Harry accidentally swallows a plastic bag, thinking that it might be an onolicious jellyfish.  The desperate reactions illustrated by Michael Furuya really detail the frightening nature of the scene and will jolt both kids and parents into the reality of how man-made pollution affects our ocean wildlife.  Because of this sudden dramatic surprise, this notion really sticks in your mind.  The ultimate message is that we hold the life of the Earth in our hands, and it’s only with a little care and awareness of our surroundings that we can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

One of the best features of the book are the wonderful illustrations by Michael Furuya.  Michael has an eye not only for color, with his soft pencil-work bringing the ocean creatures to life, but especially at capturing the lights and shadows scattered across the sea.  The animals themselves are done in a cartoonish portrayal that still remains faithful to the genuine look of the actual sea creatures.  I really enjoy the shading and muted but vibrant ocean colors used throughout the book.  Many of the shapes are rounded and softly shaded, making the creatures and the ocean itself—often a frightening spectacle on National Geographic—into something more inviting.  It’s art worthy of a Disney re-telling; especially the way he can convey emotion through great facial expressions.  Another aspect that drew my attention was the use of different font sizes, styles, and colors to highlight different sea creature names or to stress important narratives or speech in the story.  The illustrations truly pop out and are gorgeously rendered with a skilled hand.

As a bonus, the back of the book has a nice little index with all of the animals featured in the book along with a nice scientific write-up about each animal’s life, habitat, eating habits and population.  It’s sad to see that so many of these beautiful creatures are threatened or endangered which provides yet another argument for the book’s overall environmental message.

Highly recommended for young children.  Great for a read-along, to learn about friendship, the environment and marine life.

The Adventures of Gary & Harry: A Tale of Two Turtles
Story by Lisa Matsumoto
Illustration by Michael Furuya
Lehua Inc., 2000
26 pages