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Every Day is Turtle Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Did you see my post post for Turtle Day? WORLD Turtle Day is May 23rd,  but in my house, every day is Turtle Day.

A box turtle on a patio table in a backyard
Trevor, the Box Turtle

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.

 

Sonoran Desert box turtle in the grass
Ela, a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle

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.

A box turtle closed up inside his box
See why he’s called a Box Turtle?

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.

Looking at a closed up box turtle from the front
The box (his shell on a hinge) protects Trevor from predators

 

Excerpt from my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!

“Not all turtles swim–like my friend they call a Box.

His shell closes with hinges, so he won’t be eaten by a fox.”

When I wrote Don’t Call Me Turtle! for Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise, I used Trevor as the example for the turtle.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

Please join me in making every day Turtle Day!

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World Turtle Day is May 23, 2019 by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A red-foot tortoise, showing top of shell and head looking back at photographer
Myrtle, the red-foot tortoise, doesn’t actually mind World Turtle Day.  After all, she is officially a member of the turtle family–well, as long as we all remember her book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! If we call her a turtle, there may be a wee bit of a problem…

 

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.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle
Yup, that’s Myrtle posing on the cover of Don’t Call Me Turtle! Every once in a while, Myrtle asks the author to read the story to her. Again.

 

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Do All Turtles Have Hard Shells? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Do all turtles have hard shells?  No, they don’t. Some have “soft” shells.

A Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) swimming near the surface of a body of freshwaterPictured 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!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

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.

A light blue book cover with images of freshwater turtle and green sea turtlea green book cover with an image of freshwater turtlesa white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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I Grew Up with Snakes! I Can’t Help It! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

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.

image of a gray Sonoran Desert Tortoise on grass
Zoe, a Sonoran Desert Tortoise

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.

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) The scientific name honors Joseph Morafka for his work with tortoises.

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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Books, by Popular Demand! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I inherited my mother’s house, which is in an RV Resort in Ft. Myers, FL. Every year, I travel there at Christmastime to perform in each year’s original Cantata, composed by a very talented woman, Ruth Rodgers, and her husband, Dr. Ted Rodgers. I directed the orchestra, sang, played the trumpet and thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. Sadly, 2017 was the final cantata.

That meant, however, that this past Christmas, I could fully participate in the park’s holiday potluck dinner.  A gift exchange takes place every year—you know, the kind where everyone gets a number and as each number is called, that person selects a gift. The fun part is, they may keep the gift they chose or trade for one another person has already selected. Some gifts are traded (grabbed!) repeatedly until the numbers finally run out.

I decided to take the collection of my “Don’t” series books (Don’t Call Me Turtle, Don’t Make Me Fly, and Don’t Make Me Rattle) as my gift. I also took along some Southwestern-themed wrapping paper and tape since I didn’t know what supplies were in the house. I brought some yummy Tortuga rum cakes from my travels to the Cayman Islands. I was ready.

Green book cover with a tortoise standing on hind legs, pointing at the viewer
Let ME tell you about the differences
between tortoises and turtles.

Cold feet struck that afternoon. Was bringing my own books the right thing to do?  Geez, maybe I should have brought something more appropriate. I searched the house for something I could substitute, but there was nothing. Fate determined the “Don’t” series books would be my gift.

One of my neighbors greeted me at the door that evening . “Is this one of the books you’ve written?”  

I confessed it was.

His reply? “I know what gift I’m choosing.” 

Sure enough, his number was called and he selected my gift.  I was honored and delighted that he wanted my books.

His number was called early, but his possession of the books was short lived. A few numbers later, a woman took the books from him.  Then a few more numbers, and another woman selected the books—and so on! 

My books were one of the most desired gifts of the evening. It was both engaging and rewarding to know that my efforts to make science education fun are working. I hope to inspire many future scientists by creating books written in rhyme, filled with scientific facts, that children and their parents truly enjoy reading.

Happy new year to all!

A brown book cover with a Diamondback rattlesnake inside a circle, showing the sky
I am shy and I love it
when you simply pass by.
An orange book cover with a southwestern roadrunner painted within a circle, blue sky in background
Roadrunners don’t fly–
do you know why?
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Elaine A. Powers and Myrtle–NOT a Turtle!

Myrtle, a TORTOISE, lives with Elaine and when Myrtle grew tired of everyone calling her Myrtle the Turtle, one day she asked Elaine to write a book about the differences between tortoises and turtles. Of course, Elaine said yes. (She and Myrtle are best buds.) Here Elaine is pictured reading Myrtle’s book TO Myrtle.

It turned out it’s not just tortoises who love the book–kids do, too. Don’t Call Me Turtle! has fans across America, with little ones telling grownups, “DON’T call him turtle! He’s a TORTOISE!”

A woman reading a book about tortoises to a tortoise.
Elaine A. Powers and Myrtle–NOT a turtle, but a tortoise.

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A Review of DON’T CALL ME TURTLE

A book cover with a tortoise coming out of the cover, exclaiming, "Don't Call Me Turtle."
Tortoises and turtles may look alike, but they are VERY different! This fun illustrated book teaches the differences between these two creatures, and explains a bit about the habits and preferences of the tortoise. “A lesson sure to fascinate junior naturalists and animal lovers.” AZ Daily Star

By Helen Woodhams of Don’t Call Me Turtle! in the Arizona Daily Star:
“To the casual observer, turtles and tortoises appear to share so many similarities that we often use the names “turtle” and “tortoise” interchangeably. But the fact is that they couldn’t be more different, says Elaine Powers, whose charming picture book employs clever rhymes and colorful illustrations to demonstrate why the two should never be confused. To begin with, while some turtles were built to paddle around in the water, she says, tortoises were not – throw a tortoise in the water, and he’ll drown. And that’s just the beginning of her lesson about these special — and very distinctive — reptiles, a lesson sure to fascinate junior naturalists and animal lovers.”