Turtle Summer and Carolina’s Story

Inspiration from Sea Turtle Rescues


Pros: photographs, format, facts, loggerheads

Cons: these two need to be packaged together

Sunshine, blue skies, sandy beach and on-shore breezes combine to create perfect moments for light summer reading, especially when enjoying a vacation along North and South Carolina’s white sandy beaches. While most readers look for epic sagas or sumptuous short stories that transport us into our imaginations, young readers might opt for inspiration and curiosity rather than the newest epic fantasy novel. The combination of Carolina’s Story and Turtle Summer become an ideal youthful combination for fostering beach exploration.


If in 2021 the numbers of students graduating with master’s degreesloggerhead-turtle-trtle-sto in Marine Biology and thesis work in Sea Turtle biology increases 500%, the finger can be pointed directly to Mary Alice Monroe’s book, Turtle Summer A Journal for My Daughter (published 2007). This photographic journal compiled by a mother and daughter does more than watch turtles – it inspires a lifetime passion for carefully patrolling beaches watching more than flotsam. It’s a how-to-watch book for endangered loggerhead sea turtles.

The unusual format naturally inspires any child to replicate the process for watching sea turtles, owl families, or hatching monarchs. In this case the scrapbook format inspires discussion, teaches observation skills and offers an artistic way to organize thoughts.

It begins…
It is May and the loggerhead sea turtles are returning to our island to lay their eggs.”


It continues into August, from the incubation period of the turtles through to their return to their marine home when they follow the light of the stars and moon.  Along the way readers learn how female turtles swim to shore, lay their eggs and return to the ocean leaving the eggs and baby turtles to fend for themselves.

In contrast a loving mother sits on the dunes and watches with her daughter, waiting and wondering if the sea turtles will return this May. They watch the waves for signs of the female turtles. They talk about the plants, animals, shells, and the beach – mother hoping that her daughter (her young assistant) will one day not only know nature but also intuitively feel nature.

This journal to her daughter collects memories of their time on the beach, the mother and her helper, and the turtle’s time on “their beach.”   Actual snapshots (provided by nature photographer Barbara J. Bergwerf) that document their observations appear as pages in a photo album. Handwritten notes, pressed flowers, sketches, and images of sea shells personalize this scrapbook – everything that’s included preserves the memory while providing educational content.


As a complement to Turtle Summer I recommend Barbara Bergwerf’s other book from time spent with the South Carolina Aquarium.

loggerhead-turtle-CarolinasAlong the Carolina coast a beached sea turtle was found barely alive. Volunteers recognized the need for immediate help and the Turtle Rescue Team was called to assist. Carolina’s Story Sea Turtles Get Sick Too, also a photographic journal, documents the endangered loggerhead sea turtle’s recovery at the Sea Turtle Hospital located at the South Carolina Aquarium. She is nursed back to health in much the same way as a hospitalized child complete with x-rays, shots, blood and IVs. The four-month recovery process and procedures are depicted through photographs and brief narrative – text is designed to help young elementary school readers relate to the treatment but it’s the photographs that captivate both the child and adult readers.

Author Donna Rathmell German has written 16 cookbooks including four New York Times best sellers. That doesn’t necessarily qualify her to write Carolina’s Story but as a volunteer exhibit guide at the South Carolina Aquarium she became immersed into the world of sea turtle rescue and rehab. She equates, through parallel experiences with her own daughter’s emergency surgery, the turtle’s care and draws associations to something familiar to many children. Barbara Bergwerf provided photographs for this book as well as for Turtle Summer. She contributes her wildlife photography skills to the Island Turtle Team.loggerhead-turtle-carolina2


The quality of Barbara Bergwerf’s photos barely needs any text, but it’s Donna Rathmell’s text that enables young readers to anthropomorphize and understand vicariously and through their own experiences what can happen to a turtle in a hospital stay.  It also opens opportunities for children to discuss their own experiences – if working with five year olds they’ll be eager to share as any teacher will attest. My only concern is that the text occasionally relies  heavily on anthropomorphizing. The two, in tandem, provide a photographic journal of this loggerhead sea turtle’s rescue and recovery from the potentially deadly Turtle Flu.

 Create Summertime Memories

While these two books from Sylvan Dell Publishing offer a lot of educational content and numerous activities that support classroom goals, the two books also offer surprisingly delightful reading experiences for 6 to 10 year old readers who just happen to be spending some summer time along a coastal beach.  Some of the best memories from these summers are rooted in the discoveries and observations of the indigenous critters and these two books (both available as e-books as well as traditional books) just might have families searching for simple field guides that assist with further identifications. If looking for summertime and beach books for older readers, check out more from Mary Alice Monroe.



As a word of caution, always respect the need for isolation and care when observing nesting turtles and if beach areas are roped off to protect them, don’t cross the line but watch from a distance with binoculars!


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