Of Time and Turtles

Sy Montgomery (author), Matt Patterson (illustrator) / Mariner Books / 304 pages 

Sy Montgomery brings her passion for animals and talent for storytelling to focus on turtles in her 34th book, Of Time and Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell.

Turtles, she points out, are not only culturally popular—from the tortoise besting the hare in an ancient fable, to Teenage Mutant Ninjas, to Nemo’s sea turtle pal Crush—they have also been around since the time of dinosaurs and are an important component of many ecosystems, with more than 350 species on six continents. To dive into their world, Montgomery, along with illustrator Matt Patterson, interned for a year at the Turtle Rescue League (TRL) in Massachusetts.

At TRL, we meet a host of delightful characters—human and turtle—both of whom Montgomery describes in captivating detail. TRL painstakingly works in its corner of the world to save the numerous turtles displaced by development, abandoned as pets, or most often, injured during attempts to cross highways. Montgomery captures the passion and the science behind turtle rehab. Turtles, it turns out, have an amazingly well-developed self-healing process—withdrawing into their shell to protect against predators, they can practically shut themselves down to give their bodies the necessary time and energy to heal.

The idea of turtle time is woven throughout the book as Montgomery challenges us to see the world from the perspective of a creature who not only moves slowly but can live for hundreds of years. (So what’s the rush?) In many ways, the book itself is written in this unhurried style, as Montgomery meanders through observations about a worker’s tattoo, Einstein’s theory of time, and other tangential diversions—which are all part of the book’s charm. 

A rich tapestry of stories that will make you smile, cry, and cheer, Of Time and Turtles is a well-researched adventure story that encourages us to see life through the eyes of a turtle, take the time to take in all that’s around us, and let our lives be changed in unexpected ways.

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