Tudley Didn't Know

School Library Journal - August 2006

A young painted turtle doesn’t know much about what his species can and cannot do, so when a hummingbird accidentally drops her nest material into the water next to him, he flies up to return it. It turns out that he tries and succeeds at many things that were thought to be impossible for turtles, including flashing like a firefly and hopping like a frog. However, when he gets into trouble, it is the older turtles who can give him advice about how to rescue himself. By the end of the book, Tudley has taught them about trying new things, and they teach him some practical skills. The illustrations alternate between half- and full-page spreads that show the personalities of the pond’s denizens. Tudley is full of exuberance and joy at helping his friends, and the look on the faces of the older turtles when he flies above them is priceless. The book also includes information about the animals mentioned and activities related to the story. –Susan E. Murray, Glendale Public Library, AZ

Children’s Literature

Tudley the painted turtle will try anything. He tries to fly like a bird, make his tail glow like a firefly, hop like a frog, and sing like the katydids. He is able to complete all of these behaviors while helping another creature simply because he does not know he cannot do something. By the tale’s end, Tudley’s hope has spread to the rest of the turtles as they take flight. This unexpected twist presents the perfect way to foster imagination. Wonderful illustrations by the author neatly tie in with the text. End of the book creative activities allow children to make sugar water for hummingbirds and to make a hopping turtle from paper. Additional facts about all the creatures are included. The story is humorous enough to keep children as well as adults giggling. This touching tale of kindness and hope will prove to be a favorite.
- Nancy Garhan Attebury

Midwest Book Review’s Small Press Bookwatch - October 2006

Written and illustrated by John Himmelman, ‘Tudley Didn’t Know’ is a charming picturebook about a painted turtle who, in seeming defiance of the laws of physics, adopts the behaviors of other animals simply because he doesn’t know that he can’t. He hovers like a hummingbird and hops like a frog. But when he gets into trouble, trapped on his back atop a tall pile of rocks, only his special abilities as a turtle can help him—abilities that he doesn’t know about either, until his new friends explain! A supplementary section of fun facts about the animals featured in ‘Tudley Didn’t Know’ and a simple craft project for creating a Tudley of one’s own round out this happy-go-lucky story.<>br– James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief

Learning Magazine - October 2006

“Tudley, a painted turtle, adopts other animals’ behaviors simply because he doesn’t know he can’t. He flies like a bird, sings like a katydid, and makes his tail glow like a firefly. He uses his special behaviors to help other, and when the need arises, they return the favor. This book opens the door to a discussion about animal behaviors and adaptations.”

Children's Book Reviews

Young children love to play imaginative games, pretending they are being made into a pizza, knowing they can fly to the moon, or that they can fight dragons. In the moment of the game what they are pretending is reality. Of course they can! The same goes for young Tudley the turtle. Of course he can hop like a frog, glow like a firefly, fly like a hummingbird, and sing like a katydid. When he accidentally lands on his back, which is a most difficult predicament for any turtle, Tudley is afraid. Will his ever-lasting confidence pull him through to safety?

John Himmelman has created a special, delightful book, which will spark a deeper sense of imagination in his young readers. The story hums along and the illustrations follow in a fascinating, animating style. To make it even better readers are introduced to variety of small, engaging creatures and their behaviors in story form, the best way to absorb nature next to being out in it. The animal facts and activities at the end are not to be missed. Children will love to make the hopping turtle in art. Highly, highly recommended for preschool through early elementary years!
- Judith Nasse - October 2006

Peter Pan believed he could fly. The Little Engine believed that she could pull the toy train over the mountain. Many people believe in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and some folks believe in fairies. (If you believe in fairies, then clap your hands. I’m clapping and I hear a lot of other clapping hands, too.) Believe!

Tudley believed! Well not in fairies or the pot of gold, but he did believe in himself . . . or was he just naïve? Either way, his belief or his naiveté opened a whole new world to him.

Sometimes if you think you can’t do something – you can’t. BUT, put a positive spin on it, and you may find you can do just about anything you set your mind to. Tudley didn’t know that turtles couldn’t fly or hop or sing or make their tails glow. It never crossed his mind. And so he did fly and hop and sing and he made his tail glow, too, though his turtle friends shook their heads in amazement and disbelief.

Tudley made a lot of interesting friends – ones you might think a turtle wouldn’t have . . . I mean if a turtle really does have friends. There was a hummingbird, I have a particular fondness for hummingbirds, and so I was glad to see her in the story. There was a firefly and a tadpole and a frog, and even a katydid. Tudley helped them all when they found themselves in trouble. So it was no wonder that when Tudley found his world suddenly turned upside down, literally upside down, as he was trapped on top of a rock pile and didn’t know what to do, his friends were there to help him. Tudley knew how to help his friends, but he was at a loss to help himself, until his friends showed him how. He just had to believe in himself . . . and that’s what Tudley does best.
- Donna O'Donnell Figurski


When a hummingbird drops a bit of lichen into his pond, innocent young Tudley the turtle fishes it out and flies up to the bird's nest to return it. But the bird informs Tudley that "turtles can't fly." Soon Tudley is told that he can't do other things he has just done: light his tail like a firefly, hop like a frog, and sing like a katydid. When he finds himself stuck atop a pile of rocks, the other turtles explain what he can do. The final, wordless double-page spread shows that Tudley has also taught the other turtles a thing or two. An appended section provides information on each species that appears in the book, as well as several suggested activities. Although the story starts out like many "I'm glad to be what I am after all" picture books, the unflappable protagonist breaks away from the mold, and the story's unconventional ending is completely satisfying. The illustrations, apparently ink drawings with watercolor washes, suit the tale's mood and the hero's ingenuous spirit.
- Carolyn Phelan

Front Street Books

"Tudley Didn't Know", written and illustrated by John Himmelman, is a beautiful story - visually and verbally. Something of a children's version of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", Tudley knows how to do things that he didn't know he wasn't supposed to know. Tudley learns that most important of all skills, to TRY - his example teaches the others around them that limitations aren't always really there.

Storyteller Books

Tudley Didn't Know written and illustrated by John Himmelman is my favorite of the two. The illustrations are funny, vivid and wonderful. The story is funny, scary and great. Lots of great information about turtles and their habits as well as the truly wonderful "Creative Minds" section at the end of this book makes it perfect for schools and home.
- Jan Warner-Poole

Menasha Library on the Web

This picture book's illustrations immediately drew me in.  The turtles basking in the sun on logs and trailing their limbs in the water captured completely the mood of a summer's day.  But that mood doesn't last long with Tudley around.  When a bird drops a piece of lichen into the pond, Tudley helps out by picking up the lichen and flying it back up to the nest.  Yes, flying.  Tudley doesn't realize what he can and can't do, so he is able to do all sorts of amazing things that turtles don't normally try.  Finally, he is faced with having to do a turtle sort of thing in order to survive, but he has to be shown how to do it.

I loved the message of this book.  Try to do something before you tell yourself you can't.  I know that it will speak to children who are often told that they can't do something even though deep inside they know that they can.  This book is a great read aloud and will be a wonderful addition to turtle storytimes as well as units on self-esteem.
-Tasha Saecker

This is a delightful tale of self-discovery, helping others, and friendship, but also an age-appropriate introduction to pond wildlife.
- Patsy Side

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Tudley Didn't Know is the story of a young painted turtle named Tudley who lives in a pond with other turtles. As the title suggests, the story covers many things that Tudley didn't know he couldn't do, such as flying like a bird, hopping like a frog, and glowing like a firefly. Because Tudley didn't realize that turtles can't do these things, he could do them! I don't know if this was the author's intent, but this book suggested to me that we (humans) often can't do things (or don't try them) simply because we are programmed to believe that we cannot. It left me thinking long after we had finished reading it. I love books like that! This book also has a "For Creative Minds" section, containing information on all the animals mentioned in the book, a craft idea, "food for thought" (a few questions to encourage a child to think), and "creative sparks" (ideas for further research and activities).
- Heidi Strawser

Noodling With Words - April 2014

It reads like a fable about following your dreams---not letting notions of the impossible stand in your way. It also uses the word lichen on the second page. I love that the author uses concrete specific language and realistic images of the creatures in the story (realistic except for Tudley's "impossible" achievements!).