Review of The Book of Turtles

The Book of Turtles The Book of Turtles
by Sy Montgomery; illus. by Matt Patterson
Primary, Intermediate    Clarion/HarperCollins    40 pp.
5/23    9780358458074    $19.99

“Sometime around 240 million years ago—about the time of the first dinosaurs, and 9 million years before the first crocodile—the shell invented the turtle.” With this cheekily thought-provoking opening sentence, acclaimed science writer Montgomery introduces turtles to young readers. The text continues with a brief discussion of the anatomy of that shell, a discussion enhanced by Patterson’s clear diagram. This pattern, consisting of short, informative paragraphs written in Montgomery’s easy journalistic style and accompanied by a detailed acrylic-paint illustration complementing the text, continues throughout. There are world records (such as largest, flattest, most colorful, and stinkiest) and details about various turtle talents (such as problem-solving, hunting, and climbing). The fascinating details about each species (southern Vietnam box turtles whistle, the Chinese softshell terrapin urinates through its mouth) set the stage for individual differences. As in previous titles (The Octopus Scientists, rev. 7/15), Montgomery mentions animal personalities and stresses that each creature is unique. Brief biographies of turtle celebrities include Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise; and Fire Chief, a snapping turtle who was rehabilitated after being paralyzed. The account concludes with ways in which turtles help our world and several steps that can aid their declining populations. Appended with websites, a glossary, and a bibliography.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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