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Melvin and the Boy

Melvin and the Boy tells the story of a boy who finds a turtle basking in the sun at a park and decides to take it home as a pet. When they get home the boy quickly discovers that the turtle does not seem to enjoy being a pet, as much as the boy originally thought. This is a gentle story about finding the right pet, and ultimately doing what it right for that pet.

Why use this book?

  • Demonstrates that some animals are not meant to be pets
  • Demonstrates differences between wild and domestic animals

Animal Welfare Considerations:

  • Refer to the Notes for Teachers on Turtles as Pets below

Ask your students:

  • What do you think the main idea of the story is?
  •  Is there something you ask your parents for and they always say no?
  • The boy’s mom says “that dog” is too big. Are all dogs large?
  • The boy’s dad says monkeys are too much work. What do you think he meant by that?
  • The boys’ parents say ”that bird” is too noisy. Are all birds noisy?
  • The boy feels that everyone but him has a pet. What types of pets are shown on this page?
  • What type of animal is it that is wearing a vest? Have you ever seen people take a rodent for a walk using a leash? What types of rodents do people have as pets in Canada?
  • What is the tall animal on the leash? Have you ever seen anyone take a llama for a walk down the street?
  • When the boy sees the turtle, he identifies the turtle as “not too big, not too noisy, and he won’t be too much work”. Does the turtle turn out to be the perfect pet? Why?
  • Why do you think Melvin was hiding from the boy? Why do you think Melvin didn’t want to meet other pets? Are all pets shy? How do you think a dog or a cat might show it is shy?
  • Why do you think Melvin wouldn’t eat the pretzels? What do you think turtles eat?
  • Why do you think Melvin finally comes out from his shell in the bath tub?
  • Why does the boy return Melvin to the pond?
  • Do you think Melvin is happier back at the pond? How can you tell? Do you think Melvin was sad or afraid when he was away from the pond?
  • Do you think that animals have friends? How might they demonstrate their friendship? How do you show friendship?
  • How does the boy show he wants to continue his friendship with Melvin?


  • Pre-Reading Activity – Read the author’s dedication, “For Paul, who really wants a pet.” Discuss the purpose of a dedication. Ask: Who do you think Paul might be? If you wrote a book, who would you dedicate your book to? Why do you think Paul might really want a pet? Do you think the boy in the story might be Paul?Prediction:
    • Look at the front cover of the book. What do you think the boy might be thinking? What do you think the turtle might be thinking? Do you think a turtle would be a good pet? Why or why not?
    • What do you know about turtles?

    Begin the first and second columns of the KWL chart. Under the K or “What I Know” column, record responses of what the students already know about turtles. Under the W or “What I Want to Know” column, record what students would like to learn about turtles.

  • KWL (What Did You Learn) – Refer back to the KWL chart. As a class, check the W column to see if any of the questions were answered by the story. Begin the L or “What I Learned” column. Then read the final two pages, Turtle Facts, and see if any more of the questions in the W column were answered.
  • Wild or Domestic – Using this activity sheet students colour and cut out pictures of animals and classify them by pasting them into columns. Students may also drag and drop animals in to their environments in the Smart Board version of this activity. This is a good opportunity to remind students that animals from the wild do not make good pets.
  • In Your Own Words – Have students retell the story in their own words then illustrate their favourite part of the story.

Notes for Teachers on Turtles as Pets:

  • Turtles can carry salmonella. Health Canada states that “children aged 5 years and under, older adults, pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch reptiles”.
  • If students do handle turtles (or any animals), ensure they wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling. Adults should supervise young children when washing hands.
  • Turtles require specialized care. They need special lighting, specific temperatures, water filtration systems, adequate room with the appropriate amount of water and dry land. They also require a specialized diet with adequate minerals to maintain a healthy shell.
  • Wild reptiles make poor pets because they are often plagued with parasites and fail to settle down under captive conditions and it is often illegal to keep them under the Alberta Wildlife Act.
  • Releasing an unwanted exotic pet reptile or moving a native reptile from one area to another is illegal under the Alberta Wildlife Act.
  • Observing and learning about wildlife helps students to gain appreciation and respect for animals and the environment.


Lauren Castillo, 2011


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