Justin's Pet
by Clairemarie Hanavan Field

"Some animals are best suited for their natural habitat. Nature has a special way of taking care of its own creatures."

On their way to the library on a crisp, autumn day, Justin and his mother find a dark, speckled, roundish rock lying on the side of the road. When it turns out to be a lonely box turtle, Justin pleads with his mom to keep the turtle as his pet. Eventually, she agrees, and they bring his new friend home. But the turtle does not respond to Justin’s efforts to keep him happy, neither poking his head out of his shell nor eating the worms that Justin gives him. Sad that his friend is unhappy, Justin, gradually realizing that the turtle prefers the freedom of the woods to the captivity of Justin’s home, lets him go.

Field crafts a beautiful story about choosing the happiness of others over one’s own. Using Justin’s experiences with the turtle, Field focuses on how a sensitive boy evolves into a mature individual because of the choice he makes. While Justin’s earnest attempts to make his new pet comfortable bring out the compassionate side present in children who adore animals, his final decision to set his friend free reflects the wisdom of a selfless Samaritan. Justin’s deeper understanding of nature and animals is highlighted when he explains to his mother that for those born in the wild, the woods, the roar of the water streaming over the rocks, and the warbling of the birds are more appealing than the home of humans. It is heartwarming when Justin’s mother gifts him with another new pet to show her appreciation for his unselfish action. Pretty and colorful illustrations perfectly complement the simple, engaging text. Readers of all ages will surely love this charming tale which softly conveys that sometimes the secret to happiness lies in letting go.

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