Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
My rating: 4 of 5
Retired Mr. Hoppy has held secret affections for his neighbor, widowed Mrs. Silver for years, but he’s too shy to tell her that. And Mrs. Silver is too caught up in her pet tortoise Alfie to take any notice of Mr. Hoppy. . . . That is, until one day when she mentions to Mr. Hoppy how very much she wished Alfie would grow bigger. Which gives Mr. Hoppy an idea. He sets out on a clever scheme to win the attention of Mrs. Silver using dozens of tortoises, a hint of deception, and a touch of magic.
Roald Dahl is such a classic children’s author, his books hardly need any introduction. Having said that, I didn’t discover Esio Trot until I was in college. It’s a cute illustrated short story about an elderly couple falling in love in a most unusual way. As a story, I did enjoy it very much: it was clever and sweet and cute. And of course, Dahl’s writing style is excellent as always, and Blake’s illustrations are the perfect complement. However, as I often find with Dahl’s books, there are morally ambiguous or questionable sections, things that would make me hesitate to read this to younger children. Mr. Hoppy wins Mrs. Silver’s love and gets his “happily ever after,” but he gets there by tricking Mrs. Silver. Personally, I would have trouble being in a relationship that began that way, trust being a huge thing in my book. Also, as a pet owner myself, I find it odd that Mrs. Silver could be so fond of Alfie and yet not notice when the pet she was fawning over was no longer actually Alfie at all . . . maybe it’s different with tortoises, but if my cats were traded in (even for other cats that looked absolutely identical), I would still know. And heaven help the person who took off with the real ones! Still, taken at face value, Esio Trot is a fun, funny children’s story–and hey, it might be a good discussion starter for your kids.