What a great way to celebrate the UN’s World Wildlife Day, than to introduce the second book in this series about children caring for animals.
Title: Tortuga Squad-Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Written and photos by: Cathleen Burnham
Additional photos by: Kenyon Burnham and Bay Burnham
Published by: Crickhollow and Crispin Books, April 2016
Nonfiction – 32 pages
Themes/Topics: turtles, baby animals, environmental conservation, Costa Rica, global kids, youth activism, wild animal rescue, endangered species, poaching
Suitable for ages: 7 -11
Opening Text (comes after some pages illustrating the location of South America and the Costa Rican island in particular):
The mother turtle swam through the surf and then dragged herself onto the black sand beach of Parismina Island, Costa Rica. She lumbered across the sand. She stopped where the palm trees and tall dune grasses begin to grow. With her hind flippers, she dug a deep hole. Into the hole she dropped leathery, white eggs-over 80 of them!
Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rice is a photodocumentary book by journalist and writer Cathleen Burnham.
It’s an inspiring real-life story of a band of village kids on the island of Parismina off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica who help with local sea turtle conservation efforts. This is narrative non-fiction and the story focuses on one young girl, six-year old Bianca who in the opening pages witnesses an infamous local poacher upturning a mother turtle to later retrieve for his dinner and stealing all her 80 eggs to sell on the market. A several hundred pound turtle is too heavy for Bianca to save herself so she runs for help from the rest of the kids in the Tortuga squad. They save the mama turtle but sadly can do nothing about the theft of the eggs.
Later on their way by river to market they save an endangered howler monkey from drowning. The narrative explores the activities of the kids of the Tortuga squad and their daily activities with the help of some adults, even ex-poachers, to protect several endangered turtle species. This includes beach patrols, nurseries for the eggs and eventually ensuring the new hatchlings make it safely to the ocean.
Why I like This Book:
This is the second second in Burnham’s WAKA (World Association of Kids and Animals) series of books for young readers that feature kids around the world involved in wild animal rescue and conservation projects. As with the first book, the emphasis is on genuine on the ground projects run by or involving kids. Too often Westerners forget that people indigenous to areas where endangered species live are not only doing the poaching or destroying the environment, many are involved in effective conversation projects using local resources. These resources of course involve children, and what better way to encourage other kids to be involved than to read and see the stories of children their age making a difference. Even if you are six!
I appreciate that the author doesn’t gloss over the realities of the conservation efforts. The 80 eggs stolen at the beginning of the book are not retrieved, but many hatchlings are at the end. As with the first book, readers are given insights into what a challenge it is to overcome possibly generations of local action and attitudes in protecting these species and raising awareness.
Both books and their teachers’ guides should be a very welcome addition to classroom units on endangered species.
- You can read about the first book and rescuing orphaned monkeys in Peru, here.
- There is an author’s note at the back of the book giving more details about the turtles’ situation and how children can become involved.
- WAKA stands for World Association of Kids and Animals. It’s a way to share all these stories of kids – young people not so different from you and your friends – who found a way to get involved and help protect wild animals. What a great start to this new series.
- For more on this series of six forthcoming titles on global kids involved in wild animal conservation, visit: WAKABooks.org . And for the teacher’s guide for Doyli to the Rescue, and Tortuga Squad, you can find them here on author/educator, Marcie Colleen’s website or the Waka site.
- Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots is also another great way for children to become involve din conservation.
- There’s a Book for That compiled a great list of endangered species picture books last year.
- 2016 theme is “The future of wildlife is in our hands”, with African and Asian elephants being the main focus of global campaigns.The theme “The future of wildlife is in our hands” reinforces the inextricable link between wildlife, people and sustainable development. It is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the following generation. It also imparts the pressing need for national action to ensure the survival in the wild of both charismatic and lesser known species. Discuss with your students/children what they can do to make a difference.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.