We are pleased to see the re-publication of Turtle Bay by Saviour Pirotta, 25 years after it’s initial introduction to the world. Bearing a hugely important message, this book can now inspire a new generation of readers. He writes about re-visiting this book below.
THE TURTLES RETURN
Saviour Pirotta on the reissue of his timely book, Turtle Bay
When I was a kid, my gran and I used to go for long walks which today would be considered nature rambles. We’d feed the birds, sketch wild flowers and watch the tadpoles in the rain pools turn into frogs. Over the years, we also watched helplessly as ancient trees were chopped down, our beloved meadows concreted overand the common land parcelled up, sold off and turned into luxury housing estates.
“It’s the beginning of the end,” my grandma would mutter under her breath. “We’re going to destroy this beautiful planet.”
Conservation was not a word I was familiar with back then but I became obsessed with protecting wildlifeand the local environment. I wrote poems, plays and stories about it. I even went on local radio to talk about it. Not many people were interested in what I had to say. No one back then could predict how bad the destruction of our natural habita would become.
When I moved to England, the first picture book I wrote was called The Flower From Outer Space. It was a story about a boy who befriends an alien gardener. The alien’s planet has become so polluted, he cannot grow flowers there any more. He has to come to earth to do that. The book ends with an environmental message. We on earth have to make sure we safeguard our planet, because we don’t have the technology to grow flowers onother worlds.
The book was ahead of its time, I think. The critics loved the story but no one picked up on the conservation message. Disappointed, I put the subject aside and concentrated on other kinds stories. Until, a few years later, the publishing icon that is Janetta Otter-Barry asked me to write a text for a story about turtle conservation.
I jumped at the chance. From magazine articles (this was before the internet made information much more available) I knew some very interesting facts about marine turtles. There are seven species of them, they are as old as the dinosaurs and they have no teeth. Turtle would-be mums return to their place of birth to lay their eggs.
That last piece of information became the springboard for my story. What if some turtles return to their beach only to find that human pollution has made it impossible for them to lay their eggs there? How could their problem be solved? Who would help them solve it?
I was determined that the power to change the status quo would come from a group of people normally considered powerless: an eccentric old man and two schoolchildren. Enter Taro, Jiro-San and Yuko! Thestory would not only concentrate on the need to protect wildlife but that we can all help to do it, no matter who we are or where we live.
The book, published in 1997, was very well received; its message embraced by critics and readers. As with many books, it eventually went out of print – until Janetta Otter-Barry, now running her own publishing company, decided to bring it back.
Twenty five years might have passed since original publication but the book’s plea for conservation is even more urgent today. Out of the seven species of turtles in our oceans, six are endangered. The seventh, the flatback, is not safe – we just don’t have enough information about its survival to made an accurate analysis, although Australian ecologists put in on the endangered list too.
It’s not just the litter on beaches that is proving detrimental to the turtle’s chance of survival. Turtles drown when caught in fishing nets. They mistake plastic bags in the water for food, which blocks their intestines. Pollution, oil spills, tourism – they’re all a threat to sea turtles. The light from houses close to the seashore even lures hatchlings away from the sea.
I’m hoping the new edition of the book will inspire and empower kids to help stall the assault on the environment, not only turtles and sea creatures but ever living, breathing thing that makes our little planet, well….a paradise on earth. We all have the power to instigate change!
Saviour Pirotta and Niles Mistry’s reissue of Turtle Bay is out now from Otter-Barry Books.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.