In Mary Alice Monroe's adult novel Swimming Lessons, a mother assembles a journal for her daughter recounting their summer tending turtles together during the loggerhead nesting season. Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter is that journal. The journal begins in May, when female loggerhead turtles return to the beach they were born on to lay their eggs. The first entry includes these lovely words.
I hope that I can teach you --And so begins the story of one summer protecting turtle eggs on a beach in South Carolina. On each page there are photographs of shells, plants and animals that surround the main text and photos that support the storyline. The background has the look of recycled paper and with photos aligned at various angles and in different places around the page, the book does have the feel of a real journal. I did find myself wishing the text was done in a handwriting font or something that didn't look so clinical. Perhaps it was the lack of serifs, but something about the font just didn't feel right. (I know this is picky, but the right font would have added so much to the overall presentation of the book.)
as a dear lady once taught me --
to not merely know nature but
also to feel nature.
Female turtles leave the sea and crawl up the beach. This is a difficult task, given that the turtles have webbed feet and long feet that form flippers. The females dig a nest deep in the sand, lay the eggs, and head back to the sea, never to return to the nest or see their hatchlings.
Those who work to protect turtles walk the beach each day and look for turtle tracks. (When a 350 pound turtles drags itself up the beach and then back into the sea, you know it's been there.) Nests built in safe areas of the beach are marked with orange tape and signs (much like yellow crime scene tape), while nests found below the high tide line are moved. New nests are dug with shells so that the size and shape of the nest will be similar to the nest dug the loggerhead. It takes about 55-65 days for the eggs to incubate. While waiting for the eggs to hatch, the journal describes a visit to a Sea Turtle Hospital and the various creatures seen while observing life at the beach. When the eggs finally hatch, it is at night when the sand is cooler. Turtles follow their instincts and are guided by the brightest light in the sky, hopefully towards the open ocean.
Following a portion of the loggerhead life cycle through this journal is very informative. The photographs beautifully support and extend the text. At the end of the book is a section entitled For Creative Minds, which contains turtle facts, reproducible forms, and directions for making your own nature scrapbook.
The flap copy states that it is estimated that loggerhead survival from hatchling to adult could be as few as 1 out of 1000 or fewer. It would have been really nice to know where statistics like this came from. Both the flap copy and acknowledgments state that the accuracy of the text was verified by an employee of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources. This is good to know, because there is a startling lack of references for the information in the book.
My complaints about the font face and lack of references notwithstanding, I found this to be a very enjoyable and informative book. It will make a good addition to the classroom and offers a terrific introduction to the nesting cycle of sea turtles. I recommend it.
Book: Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter
Author: Mary Alice Monroe
Illustrator (Photographer): Barbara J. Bergwerf
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Publication Date: April 7, 2007
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased for Cybils consideration