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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Helix Gets His Wheels is a children’s social issues picture book written by Randal Betz, Jr. and illustrated by Claudio Icuza. Helix was the new kid in Mr. Torty’s classroom at the Tortington School. When the teacher introduced Helix to the class, Helix explained that he was born without the use of his back legs. He told his new classmates that he still loved to play and have fun with other kids. When the students were out playing during recess, Helix was invited to play football, hide and seek, kickball and other games. He told them that he couldn’t yet, but that he’d like to be able to play someday. Then one kid came up with a really cool solution. What if he took one set of wheels off his skateboard and let Helix use them? Suddenly Helix could run and play with the other young tortoises. Helix couldn’t wait to share his exciting first day in school with his parents when they were eating dinner. Betz includes descriptions of each of the tortoise species shown in the story. He also introduces the real-life Helix, who has his own Facebook and Instagram pages.
Helix Gets His Wheels is an inspiring and informative book that shares the story of Helix, a physically challenged tortoise, hatched in July 2019, whose spinal deformity hasn’t interfered with his being very much an active and happy young tortoise. Helix’s story will resonate with kids who have physical challenges that prevent them from participating as fully as other kids are able to, while also inspiring them to maintain a positive attitude and not give up. The story also demystifies differently-abled individuals and shows how Helix’s spirit, interests, and determination are just like those of other young tortoises. Sometimes, it just takes a bit of insight to realize that the wheels that enable Helix to act like every other tortoise are really not that different from the other tortoises’ back limbs. They let him run, play and interact just as they do, a topic well worth discussing after story hour. I especially enjoyed reading about the different tortoise species presented in the book and found myself going back in the text to see tortoises again. Illustrator Claudio Icuza’s artwork is bright and colorful and did a brilliant job of bringing Helix and his classmates to life. Helix Gets His Wheels is most highly recommended.