Turtles In MY Sandbox

Feathered Quill Book Reviews-April 2010

What child wouldn't be totally excited if they discovered little turtle eggs in their sandbox? That's exactly what happened to a young girl named Maggie one day. You see, a mother diamondback terrapin laid her eggs in Maggie's sandbox. With the assistance of her mother and local turtle experts, Maggie learns how to take extra special care of the young brood until they safely hatch, grow for about nine months, and become large enough to be set free into the bay where they belong.

Quill says: Do you want to learn more about diamondback terrapin turtles, in a lovely story packed with factual information? Then you must check out this book!
- Lynette Latzko

Macaroni Kid - June 2011

This is an educational and interesting story by Jennifer Keats Curtis and Illustrated by Emanuel Schongut. The "for creative minds" section at the end of the book is something Arbordale Publishing is known for. My son & I just love it!

Letters Numbers and Books Oh My - June 2012

We love all of Arbordale books they are fun, educational and all about nature and animals. This is a win win in our house. Take what my girls love: animals and nature and what I love teaching them more about these topics and you have Arbordale.We love turtles and I have done this activities with the girls in years past and yet every summer the ask when are we going to do turtles in the sandbox.

Eclectic Homeschool Online - August 2009

Turtles In My Sandbox by Jennifer Keats Curtis is a wonderfully made 8.5" by 10", hardcover book. The first thing that I noticed about this book was that the cover artwork was very detailed, with beautiful baby diamondback terrapins hatching out of their shells. All three of my children were enraptured with the book and the watercolor pictures painted by illustrator, Emanuel Schongut. The colors are vivid, and the pictures are extremely detailed.

The book begins with a mother terrapin coming to shore to lay her eggs on what she thinks is the beach. She doesn't know that it is little Maggie's sandbox! Maggie comes to realize that there are turtle eggs in her sandbox, and with her mom's help, she becomes a "turtle sitter" and cares for the babies through the winter until their chances for survival increase in the summer. The book tells us how Maggie and her mother help to care for the baby turtles before, during, and after their hatching. The book taught my children and me quite a bit about caring for terrapin turtles. Even if we will never have the chance to care for them, it is something interesting to learn.

Turtles In My Sandbox does not have any mention of evolution, which Christians who believe in the Biblical account of Genesis and Creation will prefer. The other item of interest I noticed was the fact that Maggie enlists her mom's help, something not seen in many of children's books today. She has her mom helping her throughout the book and shows that she relies on her mom in helping to care for these animals.

Of interest to parents is the five page educational supplement called “For Creative Minds.” It includes terrapin fun facts about their habitat, adaptations, food, and nesting. There is also a turtle habitat craft complete with paper terrapins, sea turtles, and tortoises that the child can cut out and make a three-dimensional turtle. The five-page segment can be printed or copied off for use in the classroom or home by the owner of the book.

What a wonderfully intriguing storybook for parents to use to bring home educational value. The educational usefulness is not obvious to children. For them it’s just a fun book. This book could be used alone for a simple study or paired with other items on the subject of turtles to make a fuller or broader unit study.

CLCD & Children's Literature - November, 2006

An enticing and detailed cover shows three turtles as they emerge from their turtle eggs. But in order for that to take place, early text tells how a mother turtle lays her eggs in the sand on a beach before she goes back to the cool water. However, readers will learn that the turtle mother in this story didn’t really find the beach. Instead, she laid her eggs in Maggie’s sandbox! Maggie and her mom find out what to do to raise the turtles by searching for information in books and by talking to animal experts. They take care to find out how to protect the eggs and to help the turtles after they hatch and what to do with them once they come out of their eggs. A plethora of facts are scattered in the text. The author has used a nice technique to insert non-fiction terms into the tale while still presenting a good story. Also, end matter covers facts and shows activities to reinforce the material covered in the book. This book is a must have for classrooms with children ages 4 to 8 and may be stretched to ages 9 and 10 when introduced in science lessons.
- Nancy Garhan Attebury

The Bloomsbury Review - November /December, 2006

Mama Turtle, a diamondback terrapin, mistakes Maggie's sandbox for the ocean shore and lays her eggs for Maggie to discover. Maggie, with the help of the Turtle Lady and her mother, learns about this reptile and its reproductive habits and helps the turtle's eggs by protecting them from predators. She is present when the eggs hatch into tiny turtles and with additional help, she raises them in tanks until they are large enough to be safely released. The attractive, realistic watercolor illustrations--wishful thinking may impart a hint of personality to the young turtles--help support this informative tale. Supplementary material includes "terrapin fun facts" and full-size coloring templates.
- J.J. Lourdes

The Ashley News "Book Talk" with Shirley LaBusier - December 2006

Early one morning, a diamondback terrapin turtle swims to shore to lay her eggs. She uses her sharp black claws to pull herself out of the water. She will use the sandy beach as her nesting ground. She uses her strong back feet to dig a teardrop-shaped hole. She lays 10 pinkish-white, leathery eggs. Covering the small eggs with sand, she then slips back into the sea.

The next morning, Maggie finds the eggs buried in her sandbox. Mama Turtle thought Maggie’s sandbox was the beach. Maggie and her mother call the Turtle Lady. She explains what needs to be done to keep the eggs warm and safe until they hatch. All summer, for 55 days Maggie keeps a close watch on the eggs.

One hot September day, Maggie sits on the edge of her sandbox and witnesses the birth of the speckle faced babies as they peck their way out of their eggs. Maggie names each turtle as it is born. The babies remain in their secure nest for a few days, and then they are transported indoors to tanks with heat lamps. Maggie and her mother become part of the ‘head start’ program. The turtles eat cut-up fish and turtle pellets. They live in slightly salted water until early summer.

On the first day of summer Maggie helps the wildlife expert place metal tags through the edges of the shell of each turtle. The tags don’t hurt the turtles but could possibly help experts learn more about them. The 9 month old turtles are released into the bay, Maggie waves goodbye as they disappear into the sea.

This story and website,, are based on a real program that allows students in Maryland to help wildlife experts protect and learn more about their state reptile, the diamondback terrapin. Terrapin Station was started by a woman affectionately known as Maryland’s Turtle Lady, Margaret Whilden.
- Shirley LaBusier

Kirkus Review - November 10, 2006

When a diamondback terrapin mistakes Maggie’s sandbox for the nearby beach, Maggie is treated to nine months of caring for and watching the eggs and young hatchlings. With some guidance from the Turtle Lady, Maggie becomes a turtle sitter, giving the baby turtles a head start and increasing their chances of survival in the wild, where their counterparts are hibernating. Through Maggie’s very observant eyes, readers will get to know the turtles individually as they hatch, feed and spend the winter in the habitat she has created for them. On the first day of summer, wildlife experts tag the babies and Maggie lets them go. Schongut’s detailed watercolors perfectly support the text, showing readers not just up-close views of the turtles, but also their aquarium habitat and the food they eat in the wild. A reproducible section (also on the web) encourages teachers and wildlife educators to share fun facts and turtle crafts with children. Sure to spark an interest in these amazing creatures, and to increase participation in Maryland’s turtle project. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-10)

Small Press Bookwatch - November 2006

Written by Jennifer Keats Curtis and illustrated by Emanuel Schongut, Turtles in my Sandbox is a picturebook about a young African-American girl who one day discovers a nest of turtle eggs in her very own sandbox! She decides to take care of the little terrapins until they hatch and are big enough to feed themselves. Then with the help of experts, she releases them into the bay where they belong. Turtles In My Sandbox is wonderfully educational as well as entertaining, featuring a ‘For Creative Minds’ section of fun turtle facts and instructions for crafting paper replicas of turtles.
- James A. Cox

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - June 2007

Jennifer Keats Curtis has written an appealing story for younger children in Turtles in My Sandbox. The story follows a girl named Maggie who discovers a nest of turtle eggs in her old sandbox just at the edge of the beach. By way of Maggie's experience, elementary students can learn about how turtles nest, hatch, and grow. Emanuel Schongut's watercolor illustrations are particularly lovely. The end of Turtles in My Sandbox also features creative activities for the student to try at home, including large turtle illustrations to color and label.
- Kendra Fletcher - March 2007

A few decades ago, it was a common thing to have terrapins as pets in home and classrooms. One could win them at fairs and buy them with painted shells at seaside resorts. It was a shame then that there was not more education about terrapins and their natural habitat. Jennifer Keats Curtis' most informative book would have been welcome then as it surely is now.

Children can easily relate to Ms. Curtis' book and the tale of Maggie who finds terrapin eggs in her sandbox! With the help of the Turtle Lady, Maggie and her mother care for the eggs until the turtles hatch and are released back into the sea. It is a delight that Ms. Curtis uses the scientific terms for the body parts of the terrapins as it helps children stretch their vocabularies. Emanuel Scongut's watercolor illustrations are clear, detailed and offer excellent support to the text. The facts and color activities at the end of the book are a first-rate addition to the book. This book is highly recommended for children ages 4 to 10, and will be a great addition to second to fifth grade science units in classrooms.
- Judith Nasse

Armchair Interviews - July 2006

In this delightful book, we follow the adventures of Mama Turtle from laying her eggs to the birth and release of the turtles. Maggie, a young girl, discovers the turtle eggs in the old sandbox. She tells her mother about them and they in turn contact the "Turtle Lady" who gives them all the information Maggie and her mother need to become turtle sitters. They have to take care of the turtles through the hatching and upbringing for a short while to protect the turtle eggs. There are other wild animals that would love nothing more than to have baby turtles for snacks.

Once the turtles have hatched, Maggie and her mother create environments in aquariums for the turtles to live in until they are ready to be released back to the wild.

Overall, the language level in this book seems a bit "old" for the reading level it is geared for. I felt the book was supposed to be read by 6 to 8-year olds, but it seemed geared more towards the 9 to 11-age group. There is a glossary of some of the words that one would normally not encounter in everyday reading and some activities and fun facts at the end of the story, which the kids enjoy. I did enjoy the book and felt it was very informative but perhaps question the words for the age group.

Armchair Interviews says: Arbordale publishes books that educate and entertain children.
- Elysabeth Eldering

Picket News - October 15, 2006

"Turtles in My Sandbox" teaches and reinforces the act of caring for the world and the animals that inhabit it. For creative minds, "Turtles in My Sandbox" would work well in an elementary school curriculum, supporting life science and nature. It is full of accurate and factual information, giving fun facts, crafts, vocabulary and games in the back of the book. This beautiful full color picture book was a pleasure to read to my three little inquisitive minds. "Turtles in My Sandbox" by Jennifer Keats Curtis comes highly recommended.
- Jennifer LB Leese

Great Fall Books for Home and School - October, 2006

When Maggie finds sea turtle eggs in her sandbox, she doesn't know quite what to think of them. Through some investigation, she gets in touch with The Turtle Lady at the aquarium, who tells her how to protect the eggs from predators. Fifty-five days later the baby turtles emerge and as Maggie examines the newborns, readers are treated to a detailed description of the anatomy of the terrapin sea turtle. With expert guidance from the turtle expert, Maggie creates tanks to help "head start" the turtles into healthy babyhood over the winter, and releases them into the bay when summer starts, much like the folks at The Terrapin Institute do. After tagging them for research, of course, with the help of the experts. There's a definite message of preservation, conservation, and a healthy dose of animal husbandry, which may worry some who believe that wild animals belong in the wild no matter what. Back matter includes Terrapin Fun Facts and a craft that will entertain young readers and make this book extra useful in classroom libraries.
- Roxyanne Young, Smart Writers Journal (SWJ)