Review: Turtle Trackers

I find it very hard to fault Samantha Wheeler's work. Simultaneously entertaining and informative, her eco -issue-based junior / middle grade novels have a keep-forever-quality that calls loudly to young animal lovers.

Turtle Trackers is exactly that; a rousing, endearing tale about a young boy still in the grips of grief after the loss of his father, living and maintaining a seaside caravan park with his mother who yearns to learn more about the conversation of nesting turtles that frequent their stretch of coastline. The massive fly in Isaac’s ointment is that he is perpetually flat out running errands for his mother, cleaning the park and maintaining relations with caravan park guests. There is precious little time for anything else including fun.

The quirky cast of permanent park guests adds colour, verve and welcome humor, while the arrival of a famous yet feisty travel blogger sends everyone into a tither. Isaac tries in vain to balance his park duties with his 10-year-old-inherent urge to just be a kid and hang with his mates. Couple this with a tender desire to not let his mum down, gain a five star rating for their park and save the vulnerable baby turtles from a mysterious sinister predator and you have a kid with more on his plate than King Henry the VIII.

Wheeler's tempered prose introduces mayhem and energy where needed whilst supporting Isaac’s own personal struggles with an overload of expectations and responsibility not to mention emotional turmoil. Conservation issues and environmental awareness, strong characteristics of Wheeler's work, are expertly woven into an engaging, easy moving narrative that fascinates as much as it educates.

Young confident readers will get a real buzz out of tracking turtles with Isaac. Highly recommended for confident lower primary aged readers and those interested in nature-inspired tales.

Lucky (left-hand side) and Terrence the Terrible (bottom right and top)

Coincidentally, I read this book at the same time a real life wildlife saga was unfolding right in my own backyard! Our rainforest inspired back garden is home to a lot of suburban wildlife forced to take shelter and seeking food and water because of heavy housing developments nearby. We are occasionally visited by scrub turkeys but for the past five months or so, our backyard has been home to Lucky, a female scrub turkey and Terrence the Terrible, a mad male turkey.

Scrub Turkey chick about a day old. They are born ready to fly with well developed wing feathers.

Lucky’s presence is tolerable. Terrence’s less so because he is the one who has single-clawedly removed every scrap of mulch and earth from our rainforest to build his nesting mound. It has driven us to despair and back but it is also amazing to see this bird at work, maintaining the temperature of his nest to ensure the eggs Lucky has laid in it will hatch. And guess what? They did! Well a few. Sadly not all the chicks survive. In fact, in the wild only about 1 in 200 makes it to adulthood, a bit like the turtles Isaac is so worried about. Only 1 in 1000 turtle hatchlings survives. It seems nature can be very tough at times but it is also incredibly miraculous and worth understanding more. Books like Sam’s really help young readers do this.

Title: Turtle Trackers
Author: Samantha Wheeler
Publisher: UQP, $14.98
Publication Date: March 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702259951
For ages: 7 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction

Buy the Book: UQP, Boomerang Books


Norah Colvin said…
I've had this book sitting on my shelf for over a year now. I guess it's time I read it! I also enjoyed hearing about your scrub turkey family and the dilemma of the mulch. I'm expecting a Lucky story any day now. Perhaps, they all should be named Lucky when you consider the survival rate. Or perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky. If it was any different, our backyards could be over-run!
DimbutNice said…
Hey Norah, right you are on BOTH counts. What a balanced way of looking at it! :-)
Oh and yes, I was the same. I often 'wait' for a book to call out to me to be read. This was Turtle Tracker's calling I guess.

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