Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 25, 2020

Book Giveaway: MEMOIRS OF A TORTOISE by Devin Scillian

Devin Scillian has written a new picture book titled, MEMOIRS OF A TORTOISE, Illustrated by Tim Bowers and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Devin and Tim!

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Oliver the tortoise has had his human, Ike, for a very, very long time now. In fact, they’re the same age–80 years old–and practically twins. They both enjoy the slowness of the garden, cool water from the hose on a hot day, and a nice slice of honeydew melon. But when Ike stops visiting the garden, Oliver wonders why his pet has left him so soon. So he makes the long journey to see his mother ten gardens away–she will certainly have the answer. This tender story from the author and illustrator that brought us Memoirs of a Goldfish reminds us to cherish all the days we have with our pets and loved ones.


Like several of my books, the seeds were sown long before anything popped up out of the soil. A few years ago, I read a news story about an aging couple trying to figure out an estate plan for their tortoise. Far from being the old story about a woman leaving a fortune to her cat, this was a very serious matter of figuring out care for a pet that can routinely outlive its owner. I was just fascinated by that and knew I was going to write a story about it. It just took a while for the story to arrive.

I wasn’t thinking at all about it fitting into my Memoirs series; it hardly seemed to be a humorous story. I was thinking of something much quieter, much more graceful — a little more A.A. Milne.

But as the story came together in my head with my tortoise wondering why he was left alone, the memoirs style approach suddenly seemed effective. (And instead of it being day-by-day, I kind of loved the idea of a tortoise writing month-by-month. My own little inside joke, I think.) It also helped once I’d named Oliver’s owner after my wonderful grandfather, Ike.

I realized early on that I was writing about loss and death, not exactly the themes that populate the children’s bestseller lists. But I also began to believe that the reversal of the typical “human loses pet” story into a “pet loses human” story might be an interesting path to walk, and I began to see that it might have a kind of quiet power. So slowly (which only seems appropriate for a tortoise story), Oliver’s journey began to take shape.
It also meant a different task for Tim (Bowers, the illustrator). But his palette was somehow softer and richer at the same time, much the way I tried to approach the writing. His immense talent again came through. I always believe that the right marriage of words and pictures can truly make something greater than the sum of the parts. I hope that’s the case here.

I’ll admit I still wasn’t sure it fit into the series, but my editor felt strongly that the series needn’t be all one kind of writing or one kind of story. I was and remain a little fearful of someone picking up the book expecting a knee-slapper and getting a very different kind of slap. But thus far, the reaction to the book has been exactly as I’d hoped.


Memoirs of a Tortoise, by Devin Scillian, is the fifth memoir book that I have illustrated for Sleeping Bear Press.

Every memoir book is different but when I received the Tortoise manuscript from Sleeping Bear Press, I thought, this one is very different. The characters, the tone, the setting… all, slightly unexpected. The first read took me by surprise but it was a strong story. Devin is a great storyteller.

My usual process is to read the manuscript several times and park the words in my mind. That’s when my brain starts to make connections and I begin to see the story forming a picture sequence in my head. The next step is to grab those thoughts and put them into a thumbnail storyboard. Anything in the story that I’m unfamiliar with, such as certain types of flowers or details of a tortoise is researched.

It’s always time consuming and rewarding to play with the page layouts.  I try to come up with variety and still keep the story focused and moving forward. It’s all about the story and how it’s presented. I ask myself, what will the reader see on this page, how will they see it and what do I want them to feel, when they see the illustration?  Also, I intentionally limit the appearance of any human characters (including Ike and his son, Ted) and sometimes, show only the hands or feet to keep the focus on the tortoise. Whenever possible, in this book, I tried to keep a low perspective and position the viewer at tortoise level.  I think that puts us closer to the story instead of just watching a story unfold from a distance. No right or wrong, just story telling options and choices. I sometimes feel like a film director, moving the camera around for the best angle.

The artwork was created in Photoshop, including the sketches. Thumbnail sketches, however, were still created with a good ole’ pencil and paper.

Memoirs of a Tortoise has the humor and great storyline that the other “Memoir” books share but with something, more.  We worked on the book, not knowing about the challenges that our country would face, this year. The book is about friendship, loss of a loved one and the appreciation of life. I think this was a perfect story to land in the midst of so much pain and loss that this pandemic has caused. In some way, I think Memoirs of a Tortoise is a perfect story to remind us of what is important and to focus on the good.


Devin is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your iTunes.  School children, teachers and parents know him as the writer behind the Memoirs series including Memoirs of a Goldfish, winner of the Wanda Gag Award as the nation’s best read aloud book. Television viewers in Michigan and Ontario know him as their evening news anchor on WDIV-TV, NBC in Detroit. And music lovers know him as the winner of the prestigious Detroit Music Award for Best Country Performer.

Devin is the author of over 20 children’s books.  His book A is for America became a national bestseller that even found its way beneath the White House Christmas tree.  In 2004, First Lady Laura Bush invited him to read at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.  His book, Memoirs of a Goldfish” was chosen as the Michigan Reads book, and has won a slew of children’s choice awards including New York, Maryland and New Hampshire.  His other books include Fibblestax, Cosmo’s Moon, and H Is For Honor.  His newest title is Back Roads Country Toads.  In 2017, he was honored with the Gwen Frostic Award from the Michigan Reading Association for his contributions to literacy in Michigan.

Devin joined WDIV-TV in August, 1995 as a reporter and moved into the anchor position in 1996.  He’s been honored for his work both at home and abroad.  His assignments have taken him from the Forbidden City in Beijing to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, from the Red Sea to Moscow, from Jerusalem to Siberia. His well-worn passport has taken him to six Olympiads. Four times he has won the Edward R. Murrow Award, one of the highest honors in broadcast journalism. After graduating from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas in 1985, Devin began his career at WIBW-TV in Topeka.  His job path took him to WAND in Decatur, Illinois, KLTV in Tyler, Texas, and KFOR in Oklahoma City where his around the clock coverage of the bombing at the Murrah Federal Building in 1995 helped the station win a Peabody Award.  Nurturing a long love of politics, he created Flashpoint which quickly became required viewing for those in the know in both Oklahoma City and now in Detroit.

An accomplished musician and songwriter, Devin has released four albums of his original songs.  He and his band Arizona Son make frequent appearances on the summer concert circuit.  He’s opened for the likes of Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, and LeAnn Rimes.

He has played a journalist in several films including “The Double” starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace, and “Scream 4” directed by Wes Craven. Fans of The Ellen Show will recognize Devin from his special reports on everything from Facebook postings to the parking habits of SUV drivers.

Devin’s wife Corey is a ceramic artist. They have been together since high school in Junction City, Kansas.  They reside in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan.  They have four children, Griffin, Quinn, Madison and Christian.

In addition to Memoirs of a Tortoise, Deavin is also the author of Back Roads, Country Toads, plus numerous other books for Sleeping Bear Press inlcuding the national bestseller, A is for America: An American Alphabet, Memoirs of a Goldfish, Memoirs of a Hamster, Memoirs of an Elf, and Memoirs of a Parrot. Devin lives in Michigan with his family. Find out more about Devin at


Bowers was born in Troy, Ohio where he lived with his parents and younger sister. Both sets of his grandparents lived nearby. His maternal grandparents had a house full of animals, including dogs, cats, an African Grey parrot  and a Squirrel monkey named Joe. Their property was also home to a few ponies and many chickens. This early exposure to animals helped to instill a keen interest, and a familiarity with them, that is reflected in Tim’s artwork. During his high school years, Bowers worked for American long distance runner and Olympic gold medalist, Bob Shul, as a salesperson in Shul’s local sporting goods store in Troy.  Shul used Tim’s artistic skills to create custom design embroidery logos and character drawings for award plaques when he discovered Bowers to be a much better artist than salesperson.  As a high school senior, Bowers received a top award in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition. Troy was where Tim Bowers fed his imagination until receiving a scholarship to The Columbus College of Art & Design. For the next four years he studied the art of illustration, during which time he created three paintings that were juried into the Society of Illustrators student scholarship competition. After his third year of college, Bowers was offered a summer internship at the Wanamaker Advertising Art studio in Kettering, Ohio.

The studio job became a full time position for Bowers after graduating from CCAD. Bowers created artwork for companies including: Procter and GambleHuffy (bicycles), Wendy’sNCRThe Cincinnati Enquirer and others. A year later, he left the advertising studio, assembled a portfolio and traveled to New York City. With a list of publisher contacts from The Children’s Book Council, Bowers spent several days showing his artwork to some of the major children’s book publishers in the city. After receiving a lot of encouragement and some suggestions but no actual book assignment, he returned to Ohio.

 Bowers continued to work on his portfolio and various free-lance assignments. Tim married and in 1983 moved to Kansas City, Missouri where he accepted a position as a greeting card artist for Hallmark. Bowers spent five years in K.C. and was selected as one of the original artists to work on Hallmark’s Shoebox Greetings, the biggest product line in the company’s history. Also during the five years, Bowers was chosen to participate in an illustration workshop with Thomas B. Allen. In addition to his day job, he worked nights and weekends to complete the illustrations for his first children’s book, The Toy Circus.


Harcourt Brace Jovanovich published the first three books illustrated by Bowers. Since then, he has illustrated over fifty books and received numerous honors and state awards. The Toy Circus, written by Jan Wahl was the first picture book, illustrated by Bowers. His second book, Pajamas was based on lyrics written by singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor and his wife, Maggie.  Bowers would go on to illustrate a series of books about a guinea pig named Little Whistle, written by Newbery Medal winner, Cynthia Rylant and great stories by authors, including Laura NumeroffDan GutmanAndrew Clements, J. Patrick Lewis and others. Two titles have landed on The New York Times Best Seller lists: Dream Big, Little Pig! by U.S. figure skater and Olympic Gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and Dinosaur Pet* written by multi-Grammy winner Neil Sedaka and his son, Marc Sedaka. In 2010, Bowers illustrated Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian, which won the Wanda Gag Award as the nation’s best “read aloud” book. Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band written by Newbery Medal winner, Kwame Alexander was a NAACP Image Award nominee/finalist. A wobbly baseball character was created for Knuckleball Ned, written by baseball’s Cy Young Award winner, R. A. Dickey and Michael Karounos. With his typical humor and fun, Bowers illustrated Not Your Typical Dragon written by Dan Bar-El, which won the 2014-2015 Chocolate Lily Book Award, British Columbia’s readers’ choice selection. That title was also selected to be included in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. Bowers collaborated with Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins on a children’s book, titled: Footloose*, based on Loggins’ iconic song which was re-written to include a zoo full of dancing animals. (* These books include a music CD in the back cover).

Tim Bowers is currently focused on licensing artwork to companies for a variety of products and he continues to write and illustrate children’s books. He visits school and libraries when his schedule permits and is spending free time, writing lyrics and playing his guitars and ukulele.

Thank you Devin and Tim for sharing your journey with Memoirs of a Tortoise. I have a copy of the book. What a heartwarming book. It made me smile and brought tears to my eyes. As usual Tim you did a fabulous job illustrating the book. The two of you make a great team and sleeping Bear Press did an excellent job wrapping it all up in a high-quality book. The theme of the book is so important and I know it will help kids deal with loss and how life can be happy after that losing someone important to you. Tim was featured on Illustrator Saturday with an interview and process and showed off more of his process a few years later. You can also visit him on

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I love this concept. I have a great true turtle story to write. Can’t wait to read this! Congratulations!


  2. What a wonderful and important book with such fabulous art! Thanks for sharing. I am a newsletter subscriber.


  3. I loved getting the tortoise’s perspective. I’m already crying. The story is needed. The illustrations are beautiful. Thank you Devin and Tim.


  4. Love that we see this from Oliver’s pov and that his mother is a few gardens away. Really looking forward to reading this book! Congratulations to Devin, Tim, and Sleeping Bear Press.


  5. This book sounds wonderful. I know I’m going to love it. What a wonderful idea!


  6. I would love to win this! Love turtles. My mom used to let my brother’s box turtles go and pretend they got out on their own.


  7. I’m working on some PBs about animals, so I’d love to win this book! (I tweeted and I get the daily emails as well.)


  8. What a sweet twist on the human and pet loss theme.


  9. Having worried about who would inherit my turtles, I completely relate to this book, and it looks like one that is very important to have out in the world right now. I love the concept. I really would love to own this, and to share it with others.


    • Also, I shared this on Facebook.


  10. Gorgeous Illustrations.
    Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this gorgeous book.


  11. Oh, my, this looks like such a good book. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for telling me about it.


  12. Posted on Twitter at


  13. Also posted on Facebook at


  14. Wow, what a powerful story idea from a unique perspective. Great work! I’m


  15. I love picture books that touch the heart and this one certainly does. Reading this post brought back fond memories. As a child, I had two pet turtles that I loved dearly. And my sweet father and the elderly owner of the beloved pet in this book share the same name-“Ike”. I would love to add this beautiful book to my library.

    I follow this blog and look forward to reading each post.


  16. I love this concept! I can’t wait to read it. ❤


  17. Yesterday morning, my pups and I were greeted by a one-foot turtle on our front porch. So discovering MEMOIRS OF A TORTOISE on Kathy’s blog today made me laugh.


  18. Love this book! It looks so well done. I’m also writing a tortoise book, so I find it perfect. (I’m also a blog follower).


  19. This looks so sweet! The art is beautiful. Congratulations!

    Kathy, I follow your blog and have reposted to facebook and Twitter. Thanks for all you do.


  20. Ike and Oliver sound like the very best kind of friends. I’m sure kids will have a great time with them and learn a big life lesson too. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and pinned an image with a link on Pinterest as well:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com.
    Thanks again, have a safe and happy day everyone!!


  21. I’m so excited that you feature a tortoise in your latest Memoir book–my friend has a Sulcata tortoise as a pet and a primary school where I did a book event has one as a mascot! This book sounds and looks amazing–can’t wait to read it. Kathy, I follow your blog.


  22. Wonderful idea!


  23. What a great premise. I’m dying to read this book. Might just have to risk the curbside pick-up! Great review Kathy, thanks.
    I shared on Twitter & FB and I subscribe to your blog.


  24. Oh, what a wonderful book! I’ve often wondered about pets who outlive their owners (like parrots, or now as I just learned, tortoises). Can’t wait to read this! Congratulations!

    Sharing on Twitter and I follow by email. 🙂


  25. This book sounds so good!


  26. I enjoyed hearing the inspiration for the story. I will certainly be thinking about the elderly couple when I read it. Can’t wait to add it to my class library.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: