The debut picture book from Alexander Bar, best known as the creator of Mike the Knight, is an adorable story about two turtles who are more than what they seem.

Our main character, Lucy, is a shy little girl who loves to help out at her grandpa’s pet shop. A multitude of different animals – “puppies and rabbits and kittens that hopped, gerbils and budgies and snakes that bopped!” – demonstrates very early on that this is by no means your average pet shop. However, Lucy’s favourite animals in the pet shop are the titular Toby and Tabitha, two small tortoises who seemingly do nothing but sleep. Lucy’s grandpa is confused by her fondness for them, going to far as to comment that “There’s more life in my old socks,” but only Lucy knows their secret – that after dark, when the shop is sleepy, Toby and Tabitha wake up and dance. “With a tappity-tap and a rat-a-tat-tat, bet you’ve NEVER seen tortoises quite like that!” she tells us. Toby and Tabitha do all sorts of dances, and brighten up the shop as they do so, but one day, Lucy arrives at the shop as usual to discover that Tabitha has been sold…

This is a heart-warming little story about friendship, magic and dancing. The key feature is a rhythmic and descriptive narrative, even when not employing a rhyme scheme, that will make it great fun to read aloud with your child. The story dovetails beautifully with Emma Proctor’s charming, funny and highly detailed illustrations, which she drew left hand to give a looser style. Not only is it a great bedtime read, but would most certainly be an ideal choice for nursery and early primary classes also.

Images courtesy of Walker Books, who have published Toby and Tabitha by Alexander Bar and Emma Proctor.

Toby and Tabitha is published by Walker Books and is available now.