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The Children's Bookshelf: The Book of Turtles - May, 7, 2023

The Book of Turtles written by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Matt Patterson is an in-depth, terrifically interesting, beautifully illustrated and, full of fun picture book. “More than 300 different kinds of turtles grace our planet,” says the author.

The book points out that people have always been interested in three characteristics of turtles -----the fact that they have a shell, they move slowly, and they live a long time. The author includes a story about the Aldabra Giant Tortoise that is found on an island in the Indian Ocean and has a lifespan of 250 years!

The stories of turtles are told via both wonderfully produced acrylic watercolors and terrific facts. For instance, the author tells the reader that the largest turtle, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, weights 2,000 pounds and can stretch seven feet long! Whereas the smallest turtle, the Speckled Padloper, native to Namibia and parts of South Africa, is only three inches long. The illustrations bring all the turtles magically alive via shapes, colors, and details--- especially regarding the shell.

There is also an important section at the back of the book entitled You Can Help Turtles! It talks about how to protect turtles that are in your backyard, how to help turtles cross the road, where to take pet turtles when it is time to give them up and how to help turtles by not using single-use plastic bags and by supporting turtle conservation.

The Book of Turtles written by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Matt Patterson is a book full of history, science, and beautiful illustrations for readers 5-8 years of age (Clarion Books/HarperCollins) 2023.

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.        

 Activity Questions for The Book of Turtles

The turtle on the front and back cover of this book is a Burmese star tortoise. It is shown in its life size. Look at its shell with is beautiful design, junky legs, forward hanging head, and alert eyes. Notice the various shades of color and the details used by the artist. Gather supplies and draw your own picture of this gorgeous turtle.

Have you ever had a pet turtle? What was its name? Also, what did you learn from that experience? Turn to the back materials and read all about taking care of pet turtles AND wild turtles you see in the yard. Be sure not to go into the road without Mom or Dad.

Get down on your hands and knees. Put your body into the shape of a turtle. Allow your arms and legs to be your four turtle legs and walk slowly but surely like a turtle. Have fun!

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.