Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too!

The Friendly Book Nook - May 2012

My second graders LOVED this book.  We read it together and it enabled so much great discussion about illness.  Children, of course LOVE animals and since we live in Southern California and not too terribly far from the Ocean and Sea World, many of the children have seen turtles.  We couldn’t believe how large Carolina was!  The illustrations were superb.  The information was age-appropriate and these books are so educational!  They include other information you can use in the classroom (would be really awesome for homeschoolers too!)  The appropriate age for this book is: 4-9

A Year of Jubilee - May 2012

Fantastic photographs by Barbara J. Bergwerf journal the process of Carolina's hospital stay. Great pictures showing the size of this loggerhead turtle and her recovery. Beautiful story for those who love turtles for sure. And even more so for children who may have or are going to be having to visit the hospital. Gives them some camaraderie with the animal world that Carolina had to visit the hospital too when she felt sick. 

The book even has a 'for creative minds' educational section in the back to learn more about these endangered loggerheads, conservation tidbits, turtle math games and a make a sea turtle craft. You can easily use this with young preschoolers, but interesting enough for elementary ages children as well. 

Learning Table Reviews - May 2012

Carolina's Story is a photographic journal which tells the story of a loggerhead sea turtle who arrives at the Sea Turtle Hospital at the South Carolina Aquarium needing immediate care for her critical illness.  Readers experience the journey to rehabilitate her and get her back home to the sea.  This story is written so that even very young readers will enjoy discovering how the team cares for Carolina and interacts with her.  The activities section includes.

Writers in the Sky Blog - August 24,2009

A sea turtle with turtle flu washes up on the Carolina shore and is lucky enough to be picked up by the Turtle Rescue Team. Carolina, as she is named, is taken to an animal hospital, where rescuers wash her sores, check her tongue, and hose her down. Kids will enjoy seeing this turtle that, much against her will, is forced to undergo a doctor's examination. She is placed on the X-Ray table, gets some shots, is put in a tank, and then begins to feel better. She plays with the water spout, learns to splash, comes eagerly to her dinner bowl, and makes friends with hospital visitors.

Kids will enjoy the many themes explored in this book: it's normal to be scared in strange places; doctors can make you feel better; you can make yourself at home no matter where you are, but perhaps most significant: we need to care for and protect our wildlife.

Carolina's story is told in on-the-spot photographs by Barbara J. Bergwerf. They capture Carolina's angst and frustration and the Turtle Rescue Team's calm determination. Author Donna Rathmell does not talk down to children. We learn that the turtle's shell is a "carapace," and that Carolina is covered with "barnacles," and that she will be treated with an "antibiotic." The typeface is large and bold, reminiscent of the text across the board of an elementary school classroom.

At the end of the book are turtle facts and math games, and a sea turtle you can trace, cut out, and color. The lessons of "Carolina's Story" will be easily absorbed because children can all identify with Carolina.

Armchair Interviews

Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! is an informative photographic journal of a sea turtle that is critically ill. The photographs and accompanying narrative journal the sea turtle from the time she is found, and as she is cared for and nursed back to health. At the back of the book is a section titled, "Creative Minds," which includes turtle fun facts, math games, a craft project and photos.

Children will be enthralled as they hear Carolina's story and look at the pictures. And they will rejoice as Carolina, fully recovered, is released back into the ocean. Armchair Interviews says: Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! is a wonderful and educational addition to a child's library. Adults and children will enjoy the book and learn at the same time.


Sea turtles can get the flu? Shows what I know. But thanks to the expert ministrations of the staff at a South Carolina aquarium, a loggerhead sea turtle’s nursed back to health after she washes up on a beach one day.

Although she’s named after the state where she surfaced, Carolina isn’t anthropomorphized, thank goodness. Rathmell lets this true story more or less tell itself, since it’s deeply affecting without needing to pander to its intended audience.

The photos do the job neatly if not all that artfully, letting us see each stage of the animal’s recovery. She gets her barnacles scraped off and even gets an injection, poor thing, before she’s well enough to paddle back into the surf. Hooray! 

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

Magnificent, bright and glossy photos in this 32-page picture book join with well-written text to make a winning combination.  The tales traces the rescue and treatment of Carolina, a very ill sea turtle discovered near South Carolina.  Simple, friendly large-print text discusses the steps from rescue to recovery.  The format allows readers or listeners to relate what is happening to Carolina to their own doctor or hospital visits.  Close-ups of Carolina show many phases of her treatment like having her mouth checked, getting a shower, and lying upside down to get barnacles scraped off her body.  Part way though the book she splashes her helper and indicates that she is improving.  The tale’s ending culminates with her release back into the ocean.  In addition to a good story, well-structured end matter adds to the success of the book.  Fun facts and math games are presented.  Ideas about the conservation of sea turtles are too.  A craft for making a sea turtle is included.  So is an added page of photos taken of other sea turtles that were rescued and received treatment.  This book is an excellent supplement to science, reading, and math classes. -Nancy Garhan Attebury

Wee Ones Magazine - Jan/Feb 06

Saving a sea turtle is not easy work. In Carolina’s Story, readers learn what happens to a sick sea turtle and how they are taken care of. Did you know that Sea Turtles get shots and antibiotics if they are really sick? Reader can learn interesting facts about sick sea turtles and the love of dedicated veterinarians in this easy to read and understand nonfiction picture book. It’s a sweet story about one sea turtle’s fight to live!

The photographs show the progress of Carolina from the moment she is first brought into the turtle hospital to the day she is set free. The pictures are neat to look at, as they capture the trials Carolina and her caretakers endured. In the end, every one triumphs. This enjoyable book will give readers and inside look in the life of a sick sea turtle.

Booklist - Aug 05

Gr. 2–4. Using the form of a photo-essay, Rathmell tells the story of an ill loggerhead turtle that was found on a beach and brought to a South Carolina’s sea turtle hospital. Brief but engaging, large-print type and color photographs (of mixed quality) follow the turtle as it undergoes a variety of treatments and eventually returns to the ocean. Despite the reptilian stoicism that the turtle exhibits most of the time, her recovery is effectively captured in pictures that highlight her increasing friskiness, including a great shot of the turtle furiously splashing water as a keeper tries to take her out her pool. The added pages on sea turtle activities, intended for teachers, don’t add much to the package, and more information on the sea turtle hospital would have been helpful. Still, this will be a useful addition to the sea turtle shelf of many collections. —Todd Morning

Midwest Review - Sept 05

With Donna Rathmell’s simple, straightforward text suitable for children grades 1 to 3, and illustrated with the color photography of Barbara Bergweft, Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! is the true life story of the rehabilitation of a loggerhead turtle. Young readers get to see the inside of a turtle hospital, where sick and injured sea turtles are cared for and then released back into the wild when they are healthy. The final pages offer fun facts and a “make your own sea turtle” cutouts designs for photocopying and rainy day fun. A delightful introduction to one of nature’s wondrous sea creatures.

Science Books & Films - Oct 05

This is a delightful book that will promote the understanding of the biology and conservation of sea turtles in general.  The story of the rescue and rehabilitation of a loggerhead turtle is sure to enhance the efforts of individuals to educate children about the nature of our sea turtle population.  Although the story takes place in South Caroilina, it is equally applicable to other areas where loggerheads frequent.  The story is limited, however, and would be even more valuable as an educational tool if more details were provided about sea turtle biology. Recommended for grades 3 - 6. - Harvey R. Levine

School Library Journal - Nov 2005

A photographic journal of the rescue and rehabilitation of an ailing female loggerhead turtle. Close-up color photos record Carolina's arrival at the Sea Turtle Hospital, her medical treatment, and the efforts of staff and volunteers to get her back on her flippers and seaworthy. The simple text is highly anthropomorphic (Carolina "feels better" when she sees another ill turtle; upon release, she is "thankful to all the people who had helped her when she was sick," etc.), but it will appeal to its intended audience. Back matter includes photos showing other rescued loggerheads being cared for, "Fun Facts," and a template for making a paper turtle. Similar to (but far simpler than) Kathryn Lasky's richer Interrupted Journey (Candlewick 2001), Rathmell's book will find eager readers and perhaps boost their empathy level. 

Heartland Reviews

This factual picture book explains that sea turtles can get sick or injured and that caring people carry them to turtle hospitals in South Carolina for treatment. Actual photos are used for illustrations. In the back is a nice turtle art project. We rated this book three hearts. - Bob Spear, Publisher and Chief Reviewer. 

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

The story of the rescue and rehabilitation of a sick and distressed turtle is told in simple phrases and photographs. A turtle washes up on a South Carolina beach and is rescued by the Turtle Rescue Team, who name the turtle Carolina and slowly nurse her back to health. When she is well enough, Carolina is released back into the ocean. The story of Carolina--the turtle’s rescue and successful recovery--is accompanied by full-color photos that offer as much to the narrative as the text itself, presenting a vibrant and informative look at the rescue process and offering a glimpse of the sea turtle’s personality. Carolina loves to play with the water tube that runs into her tank, and she splashes the Turtle Rescue Team to avoid being taken out of the tank for treatments, a sure sign that she is recovering. Additional turtle facts, a template for making a sea turtle, and additional photos of other turtles rehabilitated by the Turtle Rescue Team make this an accessible book for newer readers and a valuable teaching and learning resource for all ages. -Lauri Berkenkamp   

NSTA Recommends (National Science Teachers Association)

Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too is a unique photo essay. It takes readers from the initial rescue of a beached loggerhead turtle, through her diagnosis with a life-threatening “turtle flu,” and finally to her successful release back into the ocean off South Carolina four months later.

Captured immediately by Carolina’s plight, my students loved the book's information on behaviors and natural history, and they liked its personal touches. “I loved the part when the turtle felt better and splashed the doctor with her flipper,” Kenny giggled. “But it also reminded me of when my sister was in the hospital,” Jessica said. “She had to have shots, x-rays, and check-ups and give blood samples just like Carolina.” “But I bet she didn’t need her barnacles removed!” Anna smiled.

These seven-year old readers found the large, straightforward text to be appropriate informational reading. They mastered even tough words like “antibiotic” and “volunteer” so they could reread the story independently. They also enjoyed studying the turtle facts and playing the math games suggested at the back of the book. We all found that this book helped us to think carefully about organisms, their environments, and the role that people have in helping sick and endangered animals. My students and their teacher are sure that other classes would enjoy this book as much as we did and so we enthusiastically recommend it.  -Nancy McDonough, 1st & 2nd grade teacher.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick, Too! boasts detailed full-page photographs that help to tell the story of Carolina, a sea turtle that washes up on the beach and is rescued by the Sea Turtle Hospital at the South Carolina Aquarium. For kids who have any interest in animal science, Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick, Too! is an excellent visual journal of what marine veterinarians do. Like the other books in this series, Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick, Too! includes some interesting activities, such as turtle fun facts and math games. -Kendra Fletcher

Judith Nasse

Did you know that sea turtles can get sick, just like you? To get better they need to say "Ahhh," get shots, and stay in a warm bed of water. This book shows the young reader how Carolina, a sea turtle, was found sick on a beach, and veterinarian Dr. Tom and the team at the Sea Turtle Hospital helped her to get better so she could return to the sea!

The wonderful detailed photographs by Barbara J. Bergwerf dramatize Carolina’s story told lovingly in the text by author Donna Rathmell. Extra fun activities and facts are included at the back. Children 3 - 7 years of age will enjoy this book, as will their parents. Teachers can readily use the book in the classroom as a unit in itself or part of a sea life unit. -Judith Nasse

American Biology Teacher

Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! is the journey of an ill loggerhead sea turtle named Carolina. The sea turtle washes up on shore and is recovered by the Turtle Rescue Team who transports her to the Sea Turtle Hospital in South Carolina. Carolina is so sick, she doesn’t really understand what is happening to her, nor does she have the energy to fight the doctors as they perform procedures to determine her illness. The doctors discover she has turtle flu. The doctors nurse her back to health and release her back into the ocean four months after finding her.

Donna Rathmell aims the story right at the younger audience by inserting kid-familiar phrases like “say ahhh,” as the team of doctors initially examines Carolina. Empathetic language lets us know that if the sea turtle were able, “Carolina would have cried and cried,” Finally the day Carolina is going home arrives and everyone is excited for her, “but they were sad to say ‘good-bye’ to a friend.”

At the conclusion of the book there are a few creative mind activities. The publisher makes these activities available on-line so that a teacher or parent could print off a copy. I printed these activities off the internet for my eight year old child who enjoyed the math games. A younger child might enjoy the “Make your own Sea Turtle” craft which can also be downloaded.

Children ages 4-8 would enjoy these amazing photographs and heartwarming story. The story is especially appropriate for a young child in the hospital, as the story parallels the recovery of a child. Rathmell points out that turtles get shots, x-rays, antibiotics, IV’s, and eventually go home too … just like us.

The Advocate (Baton Rouge) - March 2008

Carolina is a sea turtle who washed up on a South Carolina beach.

The book follows her journey to the hospital, where it is discovered that she has turtle flu. She is run through tests, is cleaned, given antibiotics, and nursed back to health. The dialog outlines what happens to Carolina, but also what she may have been feeling at a particular time. The text has a very conversational tone, and the up-close photographs enhance the storytelling.

It takes four months before Carolina is returned to her real home, the ocean, as she tanks all those who helped her when she was sick.

At the back of the book are some fun facts abou tturtles and directions for a craft project for making one's own sea turtle.

The author is a volunteer exhibit guide at the South Carolina Aquarium, which houses the hospital where Carolina was cared for.

The photographer donates her skills to wildlife groups and facilities. A portion of their royalties from the book are donated to the Sea Turtle Hospital. -Judy Bergeron


"A moving and enjoyable story about a turtle in distress that illustrates the good humans can do to preserve the diversity of the planet as well as a wonderful learning experience for children." 

- Dr. Robert D. Ballard, founder and President of the Institute For Exploration (IFE) at Mystic Aquarium, Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society and a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy:

"What happens when a sea turtle gets sick? Rathmell and Bergwerf answer that question for children of all ages with this heartwarming story that parallels nature and human nature. Children will be glued to the amazing and dramatic photographs of Carolina the loggerhead’s rehabilitation and cheer at her triumphant return to the sea. Carolina’s Story is a delightful and educational book that will enthrall young readers and move them one step closer to understanding—and caring about—the gentle, endangered sea turtles."

- Mary Alice Monroe, best selling author of Skyward, The Beach House, The Book Club, and The Four Seasons:

“The South Carolina Aquarium is thrilled to have its efforts acknowledged in such a book, and the staff and volunteers of the Sea Turtle Hospital are grateful for the help this book will bring to all sick and injured sea turtles.”

- Bruce Hecker, Director of Husbandry & Facilities, South Carolina Aquarium:

“Sea turtles are charismatic animals that appeal and fascinate children of all ages. Carolina’s Story carefully explains the challenges of the natural world, and shares the heartfelt emotions experienced by wildlife rehabilitators everywhere.”

- Dr. Chris Andrews, Director, California Academy of Sciences, Steinhart Aquarium:

"Donna Rathmell's empathetic narrative and Barbara Bergwerf's engaging photographs bring to children the fascinating world of wild animal rehabilitation and teaches them about the real life problems that sea turtles face in the ocean. The crafts in the back of the book are a fun way for children to learn about sea turtle natural history.”

- Sally Murphy, Sea Turtle Biologists, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources:

“A great introduction for children to discover the efforts involved in helping sick and injured sea turtles. The photos really tell the story and fill the reader with compassion for the turtles undergoing rehabilitation.”

- Daniel R. Evans, Education Coordinator, Sea Turtle Survival League:

“Carolina’s Story will offer all children, hospitalized and healthy, a good opportunity to learn about, prepare for,    and process a health care experience. Carolina’s Story can help fill a gap in children’s literature.”

- Diane Dingley, M.S., CCLS; Certified Child Life Specialist: