illustrated by Brian C. Krümm
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
A sea turtle rescue book with pictures for children
When Dan Bodenstein gets involved, he really gets involved.
Having met a real rescue turtle at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a sea turtle hospital in Juno Beach, Florida, the author has written a picture book and authored any number of websites devoted to introducing children to his new finned friend.
Eartha, the loggerhead sea turtle the author met, was actually suffering from anemia. But for dramatic purposes, Bodenstein afflicts her fictional self with a much more common turtle predicament: being wrapped up in fishing line.
He then begins her story with a fanciful imagining of her life prior to rescue.
Eartha is a happy young turtle with many undersea friends, until one day she finds herself tangled in just some of the human detritus dotting the floor of her ocean home.
Helpless, she enlists a crab, a squid, a lobster, an eel and even a clam in efforts to free her, but none are properly equipped for the nefarious plastic left behind so carelessly by humans and now wrapped ever more tightly around Eartha.
Eventually Eartha floats helplessly to the ocean's surface, where she's caught in a spotlight she initially mistakes for the moon. Upon realizing her mistake, she tries to swim away from the boat full of people who have spotted her, but her tangled fins prevent her escape.
And fortunately so. These humans are her rescuers. Of course, they could have just as easily been her tormentors.
Eartha is taken into the boat and awakens the next day in a tank, free of that which bound her. She is happy and unscathed and soon released back to the sea, appreciative of what her rescuers have done for her and eager to get back to her friends.
Author Bodenstein makes a point of the fact that some humans were responsible for Eartha's plight, and others for her rescue. His narrator puts it directly to readers, asking, essentially, "Do you want to be one of the good people...or the bad?"
Illustrator Brian C. Krümm does an admirable job with bright colors and happy fish faces, depicting an upbeat undersea world worthy of Disney or Pixar in a softcover book. He trusts the reader to properly interpret multiple Earthas on a page as depicting either movement or the passage of time.
Bodenstein's storytelling is a little heavy-handed for general audiences, but likely perfect for those with a special interest in undersea life - turtles in particular - or parents seeking a book with a message of environmental stewardship. Unlike a typical story hero, Eartha has little hand in rectifying her own predicament. But then again, that's very much the author's point: People are doing the damage, and it's up to people to fix it, because the animals aren't built to survive what we throw at them.
Supplementing The Tale of Eartha the Sea Turtle, Bodenstein's websites treat kids to the continuing adventures of Eartha - as the author imagines them - in addition to pictures of the real Eartha. I call that "added value."
Read more of Steve's children's book reviews.