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Turtle Boy

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  472 ratings  ·  148 reviews
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy s ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 5th 2020 by Delacorte Press
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Average rating 4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  472 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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Brenda Kahn
Oh. My. God! I am totally wrecked in the best possible way! This was an absolutely amazing, absolute must-read! Unique, funny, engaging and then devastating. It is really hard to read through tears. That was the challenge for the last part of this truly life-changing debut! Breaking my no-star rating to give this five. I loved this book!
Jenny (Bookbookowl)
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you so much to Usborne Publishing for providing me with a copy of Turtle Boy, in exchange for an honest review!

Will is being constantly teased at school, due to his chin looking different to other people’s. Even worse, the doctor has recommended he has surgery to fix it, but Will doesn’t do hospitals, after his father went in for routine surgery and never came out.

When his Rabbi requests Will spend time with a RJ, a boy in hospital with a serious illness, Will is determined to clock up th
A Broken Zebra
Let Tina sum this one up for me -

-sighs- I was pulled in by the concept of this book, but truthfully, it was a let down. It didn't...I don't know, it didn't sit right. And was extremely difficult to read; Turtle Boy made me uncomfortable. And I also didn't much feel like there was a difference in voices, be it the kids or the adults and regardless of gender. A lot of awkwardness and grimacing on my end. It sadly got to the point where I couldn't take any more, and though I pushed myself to get
Shaye Miller
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. I didn’t know what I was stepping into when I started this book. It’s another one of those “the cover isn’t nearly as serious as the book” scenarios that caught me 100% off guard. So just a fair warning that this one is heavy and meaningful and will definitely require some Kleenex. Will Levine loves turtles. He collects them from the pond behind his school and takes care of them at home. The kids at school call him Turtle Boy, but it’s not because he likes turtles. Nope, that would have b ...more
Vanessa Ehrlich
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book which portrays growing up Jewish and the stress related to becoming a Bar Mitzvah, having a sick friend who is your age and growing up without a Dad. The author weaves together characters from 7th grade which ring true and the story is so engaging you can't wait to find out what will happen.

I think this book would be a great resource in Day Schools, Synagogue schools and summer camps. It is also great for students who want to know what it is like to go through the B'nai Mitzvah
The Nerd Daily
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Mimi Koehler

“In life,” he says, “we have moments of truth, where everything is on the line. And when these moments happen, we never have cheat sheets. We only have our instincts and the skills we’ve developed over the years.”

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the bright cover; this is one dark story. Seventh grade isn’t going too well for Will – bullied for his nonexistent chin and called Turtle Boy (which is kind of ironic because Will happens to
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
I had M. Evan Wolkenstein send me a note about his debut novel. In general, I ignore these requests, but I thought I'd check this one out. This book comes with some pretty high praise (compared to Wonder), and it delivers. This book deals with a middle schooler who is struggling with some physical problems that will require surgery in addition to some grief in his past. He ends up meeting a kid in the hospital who changes his perspective on a lot of things.

I don't want to spoil anything. If you
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, evan
Several colleagues were raving about this middle-grade debut and the author, a Milwaukee native and high school teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco, was nice enough to send me an ARC earlier in the summer. Missing our audio-book car time, my 11-year-old wanted to listen to the book instead, snuggling together in bed following along with the print version. Will Levine is a seventh grader struggling through a new school year, the B’nai Mitzvah circuit at his sma ...more
WKPL Children's/YA Books
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Miss Lori was destroyed while reading this book!!! The main character is a 7th grade boy with a bit of a physical issue with his chin and an introverted personality. While he loves turtles, he doesn't enjoy being called "turtle boy" because the name-calling isn't for his love of turtles, but for his chin.

His service hour requirement for his Bar Mitzvah is to visit a young man in the hospital and this makes him panic due to his introvert personality and the fact that he has panic attacks even th
Dawn Murray
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My 12 year old son read this and thought I would like it, and he was right. I loved it. It was a beautiful book and so great for tweens and parents and everyone.
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just finished the audiobook version of this and absolutely LOVED it! Will's voice is so well done, and to me, this really read as authentically middle grade. I'll admit that my favorite characters were probably RJ and Rabbi Harris, but it's likely because I have a real soft spot for sensitive rocker dudes and aging hippies, lol. Nevertheless, I found all the characters really well done, even the adults, which can often be two-dimensional in MG books. I'll also admit to having shed a tear or tw ...more
Liza Wiemer
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ownvoices
I have a fantastic (and humorous!!!) interview with the author on my blog. So check it out here:

It's been over a month since I read this book. I've read or listened to at least a half-dozen other books since, and let me tell you that TURTLE BOY will stick with you. The MC, Will, is called Turtle Boy by bullies at school—he has a condition called micrognathia with aplasia of the mandibular condyles. It's a condition where the chin continues to shrink duri
Doug Adams
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book from a first-time author. Really compelling story of bravery and compassion, perfect for teens and adults. The protagonist was believable and engaging -- I really liked him, even when he disappointed me. I followed along with his adventures, and even cried at one point. Evan Wolkenstein really got me into the mind of a socially-outcast middle schooler. I am better for having known Will.
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is a great story of how we teach compassion, accept differences and grow as young people. A perfect middle grades read, works for boys and girls and expresses the real life pain that growing up can bring. There is a theme of preparing for Bar Mitzvah which also expresses the process that will be relatable to Jewish kids and explains the process to non Jewish readers.
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would like to extend my gratitude to Netgalley and Random House Children's book for the ARC of Turtle Boy in exchange for an honest review. I was not expecting to have this title knock my socks off- but it certainly did. It reminds me a little bit of Wonder- but is BETTER! It is not because both protagonists are dealing with a facial deformity. The dynamic character change of the protagonist, Will, is phenomenal. Readers are introduced to a grief-stricken boy and his mother. They are both stil ...more
Actual rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

To be honest, I liked this one the more I read it. At first, I thought I would just push through and finish it just to say it was done. Then, I kept reading and I found myself getting more and more invested in Will and his year as a 7th grader.

Will never thought he was different, until other kids started calling him Turtle Boy. This isn't due to his fascination with turtles (although, he does love them). Rather it is because his chin is much smaller than other pe
Michelle Beginandendwithbooks
My kids and I slowly read this book one or two chapters at a time before bed for months. The main character, Will, is in 7th grade, and my 4th grade son and 6th grade daughter both give Turtle Boy five stars.

To be honest, at first I was worried that Turtle Boy was going to be a Wonder knock-off, since the main character is teased at school for having a different-looking chin. Thankfully, Turtle Boy includes a variety of memorable conflicts and characters. Will experiences grief, fear, friendshi
Katie Reilley
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This heartbreakingly beautiful #ownvoices MG debut highlights friendship, taking chances, self-identity and grief with characters that will remain in your heart for a long, long time. My only concern was 388 pages, most of my 4/5th middle grade readers wouldn’t find this one approachable as an independent read.
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
Another award winner very well-deserved. So many wonderful things about this book. I hope this new author continues because I would read anything he writes.
Lisa Bernstein
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent middle-grade book about facing fears and overcoming challenges. The plot was thoroughly engaging, addressing issues of protecting nature and endangered species, coping with medical issues, visiting the sick, facing death, and family relationships. Set during the year of preparing for Bar Mitzvah, the book focuses on the aspects of growing up, and doing mitzvot (commandments/good deeds) more than the ritual of the Bar Mitzvah itself. Amazing that this is the author's first book--it's ex ...more
Ms. Yingling
Apr 02, 2020 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Will has always been self conscious about his receding chin, but middle school has heightened his anxiety, mainly because of the name calling of two bullies, who taunt him with "Turtle Boy". His mother has taken him to the doctor to check this out, and the diagnosis was micrognathia, which is concerning because it can lead to problems eating and breathing. There is a surgery for it, but Will is afraid because his father died during a routine hernia repair operatio
Josephine Sorrell
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Twelve-year-old Will is sad. His refuge is his bedroom with his turtles. Will’s passion for turtles is not the main reason he is teased at school and called Turtle Boy. Will has a mild facial disfigurement. He barely has a chin, making him look different which is just what the bullies thrive on...others differences.

Will’s family is Jewish, therefore his mom and Rabbi Harris pressure him to prepare for his bar mitzvah. He is completely reluctant because he veers away from any activity that draws
Celesta Rimington
Turtle Boy is one of those books I want to hug throughout the entire reading experience. M. Evan Wolkenstein has written a beautiful debut that encourages readers to look at life, challenges, the people around us, and ourselves with more compassion. Middle grade readers and adults alike will enjoy this layered story of friendship, bravery, and connection.

Will is a seventh-grader who has a great appreciation for "herps"--a nickname for reptiles and amphibians. He'd much rather spend his days cari
Tamara Kaplan
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To me, this beautiful story talks about the different ways that life can go for a person, and the essential contribution that other people make in determining how a person’s life goes – for better and for worse.
Will lives in a world that brings optimistic outcomes to harsh circumstances with the help of a few key people. These people are of the kind that anyone would want to have in their lives, and through his experiences with them – many scary and painful, many exhilarating and world-expanding
Wisconsin Alumni
M. Evan Wolkenstein '97

From the author:
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.

At firs
Deborah Anstandig
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book! I hesitated to read the last pages so that I could spend more time with Will. As a teacher for over a decade, I have come to meet many a student like Will--a person with a beautiful, complicated inner life and challenges both visible and invisible. Will's world includes the typical dynamics of adolescence including fighting with one's parent, navigating difficult moments with friends, and staying committed to one's passions. But Will has a particular set of challenges that ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I don’t believe I have read a realistic fiction book with a Jewish main character besides historical fiction Holocaust novels. The reader learns more about Jewish traditions and celebrations. The main character and turtle enthusiast, Will, must complete community service hours to fulfill the requirements for his Bar Mitzvah, but Will is self conscious about his appearance. He doesn’t follow through with any opportunity until he forced to volunteer at the hospital visiting RJ. Will’s character is ...more
Heidi Burkhart
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As the cover slightly put me off I had some doubts about this book. However I was surprised and pleased by the topics and scope of Turtle Boy. Issues about self-image, environment, Judaism, and community service came up. These topics and more were handled well, and in a way that would be believable for its readers.

Walking back my original grumpy comments. In the end, I liked this book. It's a touching story about friendship, self love and grieving. I maintain that making a mistake about box turtle habitat was sloppy editing -- someone should have caught it. And it is high time that everyone stop saying "Long time, no see." It's derogatory. But, this book is an enjoyable read. Let's hear it for middle grades fiction! ...more
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M. Evan Wolkenstein is a high school teacher and author of YA novel Turtle Boy (Random House, May 2020).

He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Hebrew University, and the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. His work can be found in The Forward, Tablet Magazine, The Washington Post, Engadget, My Jewish Learning, and BimBam.

He lives with his wife and daughter in the San Francisco Bay A

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