Helix

Gets His Wheels

Children - Picture Book
42 Pages
Reviewed on 11/09/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Randal Betz Jr. was born January 16th, 1979 in Philadelphia, PA. He grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and spent his summers deep-sea fishing and playing on the beaches of Ocean City, New Jersey. For high school he went to The Pennington School in New Jersey, where he was forever influenced by friends, teachers and coaches. He has a degree in animal biology from Penn State University, which he does not use professionally, but more so for his passionate hobby of turtle and tortoise conservation. He currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife Meghann and their four children. He is a full time husband and father, a medical sales consultant by day, a tortoise conservationist by night, and an author of a children’s picture book about an inspirational tortoise named Helix, who is the true definition of divine intervention.

    Book Review

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.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

There’s a new student at Tortington School. His name is Helix and he’s a marginated tortoise with a black shell with yellow spots. Helix is a special tortoise. “I was born without being able to use my back legs,” he explains to the class. “But I love to have fun and play with friends.” Each new classmate welcomes Helix and invites him to play with them: tag, kickball, hopscotch, hide and seek and so many other fun games that would be difficult for Helix. But Herman comes up with an idea that will help Helix join in the fun. It works and everyone has a great time.

Randal Betz Jr.’s picture book story, Helix Gets His Wheels, is an educational story for young readers to teach them to accept others with different physical challenges. Based on the true story of a marginated tortoise born in Arizona in 2019 with a congenital spinal disorder (his true story is added at the end of the book), this cute tale studies the things children love to do, but also how some children might find it physically challenging to do all these fun activities. The plot develops through student interaction: one student presents a fun game to invite Helix to join and then Helix carefully explains how he’d love to participate, but his hind legs present a challenge.

The climax is the resolution of one very thoughtful and intuitive young tortoise and how all the children rejoice and play with Helix on the school playground. A very uplifting and caring story. The endnotes are interesting as the author documents the case of the real Helix and provides some interesting details on different kinds of tortoises. A great way for young readers to learn about physical challenges, but also to learn about tortoises, and, of course, the amazing true story of Helix. Lovely illustrations accompany the story.

Joshua Soule

“They helped me play all the games I thought I would never be able to play.” Helix Gets His Wheels is an inspiring children’s story, written by Randal Betz Jr. Helix the tortoise is a new student in school and he has something unique about him; he was born unable to use his back legs. Despite this difficult situation, Helix is quite the positive little guy, and though he struggles with some of the games the kids play, he tries his best. The other kids are not willing to give up and they find a creative solution that helps Helix play the games with his friends.

Author Randal Betz Jr. has done a wonderful job of creating a story that is both fun and meaningful. I found the characters to be well-crafted for young children, and the plot to be incredibly meaningful and realistic. Helix Gets his Wheels offers so much to learn; acceptance, positivity, and never giving up. Betz has certainly accomplished his goals with this story and even went above and beyond by including facts about the characters and their species at the end of the book! A truly educational and inspirational children’s story. I admired Helix throughout the entire story and found him relatable and inspirational. The illustrations were colorful and attention-grabbing, complementing the story perfectly. Overall, I found Helix Gets his Wheels to be an excellent children’s story, and I look forward to more from this author in the future.

Eddie shlimon

Book changed my life and inspired my tortoise to walk after being incapacitated for 2 years!