What a wonderful day–a day of encouragement. We all need encouragement, whether it be for something small or something big. As a writer, I’m constantly in need of encouragement. It’s one thing to put words on a page–that is easy. But I need encouragement to share my work with the world. I’ve gotten encouragement to write stories, to get them published, to market them to shops, and to speak in public about them.
My writing career started because the other passengers on a boat encouraged me to publish the story. So,Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers was published. But the real encouragement came from the first children who read it when they asked me, “When is the next Curtis story coming out?” I hadn’t planned another Curtis, but their sweet encouragement led to the stream of books, 26 to date, that have flowed from me. I will be forever grateful.
I am also encouraged when children who had the book read to them, incorporate the science into their daily lives and even share it with others around them. Like my friend’s young grandson who corrects adults who call a tortoise a turtle. “Don’t call him a turble!” he exclaims.
And I’m encouraged when an adult tells me after she’s read a book to the young person in her life, “I didn’t know that, either. I learned something new yesterday.”
We all have a story to share. I encourage you to share a story with a special little someone today.
My first book in the Don’t Series explores the differences between turtles and tortoises. I tell everyone that my Red-foot tortoise asked me to write the book. I adopted her from another New Jersey family when I lived back East. That in itself is a story. We were both using the Mid-Atlantic Turtle & Tortoise Society to place or adopt. Eventually, someone figured out it would be easier for me to adopt directly from the family, instead of both of us making trips to Maryland. As a result, I ended up with a truly wonderful tortoise named Myrtle. Officially her name was Hebe Myrtle, but she really is a Myrtle.
Since Myrtle free roams in my home and was a companion for my elderly mother, she was always introduced to guests. When I said her name was Myrtle, people would inevitably say, “Oh, Myrtle the turtle.” No–she is Myrtle the tortoise. Consequently, the book about the differences between turtles and tortoises had to be written. Her inspiration resulted in a very engaging book, if I do say so myself. (Well, I’m going by fan mail, too.)
People think they know the differences between turtles and tortoises, but few do. It’s not simply that turtles live in water. Just ask my Desert Box Turtle, Ela. Odds are she’ll never see a body of water, or even flowing water. However, all turtles have the ability to swim. This swimming capability is reflected in the shell and limb structures.
Despite the similarities in their shelled bodies, there are behavioral differences between turtles and tortoises, too.
I don’t want to give away the many differences here, because I know you will love learning all about them them by reading Don’t Call Me Turtle to your little one. It’s written in rhyme—so you both can repeat what you’ve learned with some flair!
You can also explore the life-cycles and traits of turtles and tortoises in Lyric Power Publishing’sfun and educational workbooks. We really enjoy making science fun around here!
August 1st is a day to celebrate your girlfriends. I’m certain they meant for it to be a day to celebrate your HUMAN girlfriends–please do celebrate your friendships and don’t let them become neglected. However, I’m celebrating my other girlfriends on this day. Let me introduce a few.
This is Calliope, named for the muse of long poetry. She is my inspiration for my writing, looking over my shoulder. She is a green iguana.
This is one of my newest girlfriends, Button. We’ve been building a very special relationship for two years now. She lets me ride her bareback, so we have a physical connection to go with our spiritual one. She is a Missouri Fox Trotter.
And last, but never least, this is Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise. She made me write my very first picture book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!, when she’d been called a turtle one too many times. This picture book explores the differences between tortoises and turtles in rhyme and is a fun-favorite among little ones and their parents. Of course, Myrtle never tires of me reading it to her!
It’s the start of monsoon season here in the Sonoran Desert. When the rain begins to fall, the tortoise comes out of her den. Why? Is it because she’s afraid the water will rush into her underground den and fill it up?
No, she comes out because it’s time to drink. The desert tortoise finds a depression in the ground where the water collects. Then she drinks and drinks and drinks until her bladder is full.
I’ve tried putting out dishes of water for my tortoise, but she won’t drink from a source where the water is still. Sometimes, I pretend to be a storm and rain down water from my hose.
It’s a truly wonderful thing when it rains in the desert. We should all be more like the tortoise and go out and drink it in!
If you’d like to know more about tortoises, check out my rhyming book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! My tortoise, Myrtle, asked me to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises because everyone kept calling her Myrtle the Turtle. She’d finally had enough! She likes her book a lot, perhaps just a smidge more than my young readers!
And check our our workbooks on tortoises and turtles at our Lyric Power Publishing Workbooks page. They are full of information, and have lots of fun activity sheets for kids (and adults like them, too, I’m told!) that help to pass the long summer days.
That’s because I share my home with box turtles, Trevor And Ela. I’ve had Trevor (Terrapene carolina) for a long time. He was given to me by a co-worker when I lived on the East Coast. He had been passed from family to family to family. She gave him to me to stop the passing. She knew I’d keep him. But I did contact the state about what I should do with him, since he could be a native. Because it could not be determined where he was from, I was told to keep him in captivity. I tried to donate him to a breeding program for his happiness, but he was from the wrong state as far as we could tell. So when I made the cross-country move, Trevor came with me.
I’d been in Tucson for several years, when I was asked to take in a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle(Terrapene ornata luteola). She had been kept in captivity and needed a new home. Fortunately, I have a secure back yard, so Ela joined my Sonoran Desert Tortoise in the backyard. They even brumated together.
Even though Trevor and Ela are both box turtles, they are very different. Trevor’s favorite food is snails, while Ela wants nothing to do with them. They do both enjoy a juicy strawberry.
Have you ever wondered why they are called box turtles? Unlike most turtles which have a sleek shell, streamlined for swimming, the box turtle has a high dome, more like a tortoise. This reflects their more terrestrial lifestyle. With no water to escape into, box turtles have developed a different defense against predators. Box turtles have a hinge on the bottom shell, the plastron. Not only can they pull their head, limbs and tail inside but they close up the shell to form a “box.” It’s much harder to find a bit to eat when your meal is hidden inside a hard shell.
World Turtle Day was started in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue. You see, all hard-shelled reptiles, even if they are soft-shelled, are called turtles. Even if they are tortoises. I don’t think that is fair personally. Neither does my red-foot tortoise, Myrtle, who insisted I write the book, Don’t Call Me Turtle after she got tired of being called a turtle–especially because her name is Myrtle!
The purpose of World Turtle Day is to educate people about their role in protecting the habitats of turtles and tortoises. Their shell protects them from the hazards of their natural world, but turtles and tortoises fare badly in interactions with people. From loss of habitat, being crushed crossing roads, caught in fishing nets and drowning, and being eaten, it’s a dangerous world for these gentle creatures. Okay, maybe snapping turtles can fight back, but the others are pretty helpless. They need our assistance.
Help celebrate the joy that turtles and tortoises bring to people every day. Enrich your life with one of these amazing animals.
Do all turtles have hard shells? No, they don’t. Some have “soft” shells.
Pictured here is a Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox), native to the southeastern United States. This large turtle has a flat, pancake-like body, webbed feet, and a long neck which ends in a long head with a long nose. I looked across the lagoon to see several heads, but just the eyes and snouts above water.
In my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle, I describe turtles and tortoises having scutes, the individual panels of their hard shells. However, the softshell turtle’s carapace (the top shell) is cartilaginous, covered with a leathery skin. This the largest softshell turtle found in Florida, but more interestingly is that the females are often three-to-five times larger than the males!
Softshells spend most of their time in the water and can be found in freshwater and brackish environments, but they don’t like fast-moving water. They also enjoy burying themselves in the muddy substrate. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as sinking one’s self into mud.
Even though they are omnivores, these turtles are significant predators in their ecosystems, feeding primarily on meat. The lagoon where I enjoy viewing the softshell turtles also has alligators. So, when ducklings were being eaten, the gators were blamed, of course. Usually softshell turtles eat small aquatic animals and insects, but now and then, ducks are on their menu. It’s not always the gators!
Don’t Call Me Turtle is a fun children’s book written in rhyme that tells the differences between turtles and tortoises–and there are LOTS of differences!
For those parents, teachers and tutors using educational supplements, Lyric Power Publishing offers high quality workbooks on turtles and tortoises, for lower and upper grades.
You might have noticed that most of my books involve reptiles. I am a biologist by profession, and I particularly like reptiles. My brother was allergic to fur, so growing up we had snakes. This was back in the days when television sets were always warm, so the snake’s tank sat on top. The snakes were part of the family, being cuddled as we watched TV shows at night. I consider my current reptiles to be family members. They provide an endless source of inspiration for my writing.
When I was looking for a house in Tucson, the disclosure sheet listed an abundance of lizards. I don’t think they intended for this statement to be a selling point, but it was. All reptiles are welcome. In this post, I’d like to tell you about the Sonoran Desert Tortoise.
This tortoise has adapted to the extreme environment of the Sonoran Desert. The tortoise has powerful limbs covered with thick scaly skin for digging underground burrows, where it spends much of its time. It eats a wide variety of plants, including many that are indigestible to other animals. It feeds most actively during the monsoon season, and is dormant much of the rest of the year. The tortoise stores water in its bladder, allowing it to go up to a year without drinking.
Like other reptiles, as a defense mechanism, the tortoise will empty its bladder to discourage a predator. Unfortunately, this can deplete its water supply and result in death during a drought. For this reason, it is important to never pick up or interfere with a Desert Tortoise. The gravest danger to Desert Tortoises is human-caused mortality.
I have one of these awesome tortoises, Zoe, pictured here, who joined my home through the Tortoise Adoption Program, sanctioned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This program assists in the proper care of captive Desert Tortoises by qualified custodians, and since they have been in captivity, they can never be released. Their behavior has been altered and they might expose other tortoises to diseases not known in the wild.
I had to have my yard approved to participate in this program. Did I have sufficient food, a proper hibernation den, any dogs that could be predators, enough vegetation to provide shade, as well as basking places in full sun, and would the tortoise be kept away from the pool?
I am honored to be allowed to foster Zoe.
Note: Elaine a. Powers became an author after contact with Curtis, the Curly-tail lizard in the Bahamas. Her first book was inspired by Curtis and is an adventure called, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. And though Myrtle, a Redfoot tortoise is neither a turtle nor a desert tortoise, Myrtle asked Elaine to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises. So, Elaine did, in a fun book written in rhyme, beloved by young children. It is called Don’t Call Me Turtle!
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