Our editorial intern, Nandini Ranganathan, writes about getting to know the oldest species of reptiles in the world – turtles – in Waiting for Turtles, written by Pankaj Sekhsaria and illustrated by Vipin Sketchplore.
If someone were to suddenly ask you for information about turtles, would you be able to tell them five correct facts off the top of your head, the way you would for an elephant or a cat? For creatures who have lasted since the time of the dinosaurs, turtles are surely not flaunting their survival know-how. Even with the 21st-century technology at our disposal, we are yet to learn some of their best-kept secrets.
Then, is it any surprise that people dedicate their entire lives to the research of turtles?
In Waiting for Turtles by Pankaj Sekhsaria, Seema, the protagonist Samrat’s mother, is one such person – a sea turtle researcher who works in the Andaman Islands. She flits from one island to the next, observing the nesting creatures and tending to the nests once the mother retreats to the sea. Samrat dreams of becoming her assistant someday and is thrilled when he gets to accompany her to Tarmugli Island – a nesting site of the green sea turtles. Will he get to see this elusive creature?
Beautifully showcasing the innocent questions and comments that children have regarding nature, this book brings just the right bit of information about turtles and their nesting process. To add to a great story, Vipin Sketchplore’s vivid watercolour illustrations virtually transport us to the island and let us almost first-handedly experience the events of the night.
The simple dialogues and narrative help us relate very quickly to Samrat and his wishes. When Samrat first tells his mother that he’d like to be a female turtle when he grows up, we laugh at the naïve and bizarre nature of his wish. Later, when he is jolted from his sleep and discovers a floundering creature as big as him, we’re just as impatient to wake Seema up and show her the sight.
Radhika Suri, Director, Environment Education, WWF-India, says the book will inspire children to think of studying and working in this field of science and that it is a must-read for every child. She is not wrong. It is never too early to know about the environmental impact of our actions, especially now that the global climate is changing for the worse by the minute. In fact, the earlier we introduce children to environment-friendly practices and the threats we present to biodiversity, the better.
With informative back-matter about the oldest surviving reptiles – the turtles – and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, this book is as informative as it is entertaining and is apt for children aged 8 to 10 years!
Pankaj Sekhsaria is a long-time member of the environmental group, Kalpavriksh, and currently works as an Associate Professor at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay. He was also a Senior Project Scientist at the DST-Centre for Policy Research, IIT-Delhi from 2016 to 2018.