Turtle Love began as a conversation with my friend Robyn. We were on an idyllic North Queensland beach, standing in the shade of wispy casuarina trees on the foreshore, hearing the breeze sigh through the foliage and the slap of gentle waves on the warm golden sand. The beach area is home to a small human community and a myriad of coastal creatures, including the vulnerable flatback turtle hatchlings that emerge from nests in summer.
(Vulnerable means that the species is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve. Vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss or destruction of the species’ home).
Nearby, the two jetties of a huge coal loading facility stalked more than 1.5 kilometers out to sea and poured coal into ships from a 67-hectare stockpile, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Robyn was extremely worried about plans to build another facility on an almost pristine beach to the north where flatback turtles nest.
A children’s picture book seemed the perfect vehicle for us to explore this dilemma. A talented artist, Robyn agreed to illustrate the text.
Turtle Love is about Jacob Gordon Lachlan Brown who lives on perhaps the most interesting and beautiful beach in the world. The flatback turtles agree. They come every summer to lay their eggs. But life is becoming more difficult for the turtles because the big ships that load coal all are stirring up sediment and this affects the seagrass that the turtles eat. And this beautiful beach is where they MUST come to nest. Why don’t the flatback turtles go somewhere else? What can Jacob do to help them?
The text explores themes including the impact of man-made coastal developments on the habitat of other species; how to advocate for threatened creatures and the right of all living beings to have a safe place to nest and live. As a bonus, the book contains a story within a story, a mythical explanation for the beautiful coloured rock landform on the beach where the turtles nest.
Unfortunately, Robyn died suddenly, just as she was about to begin illustrating. In shock and grief, I couldn’t look at the project for some time. Eventually, I met the gifted Brisbane photographer, poet and illustrator Anna Jacobson and work began. Anna created vibrant, distinctive and insightful illustrations that colourfully complement the text.
Turtle Love is written for 4-8-year-olds. My teacher friends say that it’s perfect for science and literacy concepts in lower primary school. Classroom and early childhood teachers will appreciate the two information pages on the flatback turtle habitat plus links to other age-appropriate resources on this blog
And Turtle Love is not just an environmental treatise. It is also a warm and empowering story that engages young children and invites them to be proactive about the welfare of other creatures.
The book is especially relevant at this time in Australia’s history when people across the nation are protesting what could become the largest coal mine in the world in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin area. Coal from this proposed mine would be exported through a port in a setting very similar to the one in Turtle Love. Scientists and environmental advocates hold grave concerns for the health of the spectacular coral on the Great Barrier Reef and all the marine life that call it home, if the mine goes ahead.
Format: Softcover, 36 pages (including cover)
ISBN: 9 780646 966977
Cost: $22.95 (includes postage within Australia)
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