BOOKS: Turtle Bay
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1997:
by Saviour Pirotta,
art by Nilesh Mistry
Farrar, Straus & Girous (19 Union Square
West, New York, NY 10003), 1997.
28 pages, hardcover, $15.00.
Turtle Bay, about old Japanese sponge
diver who sweeps a remote beach to prepare it for
loggerhead turtle nesting, might be the best way to
explain to a child why a favorite beach (or a part of
it) is off limits, whether to help sea turtles, piping
plovers, clapper rails, or any other animals whose
needs conflict with human recreation.
Produced from an idea by Yukki Yaura,
Turtle Bay refutes stereotypes resulting from the
ruthless Japanese pursuit of practically every sea
creature who can be commercially exploited. Like
many Japanese, Jiro-San depends upon exploitation
of marine life for his living. But instead of whaling,
driftnetting, joining “drive fishery” pseudorca massacres,
or ripping the shells off sea turtles, none of
which are mentioned, Jiro-San describes whales,
dolphins, and sea turtles as his friends, teaching
children to appreciatively observe them and protect
habitat to accommodate them.
This tends to reinforce another stereotype,
advanced by animal and nature abusers: that those
who most use a “resource” most appreciate it,
whether the subject is the oceans, logging, sport
hunting, or factory farming.
There are isolated individuals like JiroSan
in every society, who counter loneliness by
befriending animals, whose lives are often as paradoxical.
We know of an ex-matador, for instance,
who is a devoted cat rescuer. We would like to see
a children’s book tackle the harder questions such
individuals pose: why are their turns away from
cruelty unique and not the norm? How does JiroSan
feel about the treatment of his friends by others
of his culture, perhaps including his children?
Wolf Clifton, turning seven as this is published,
loves Turtle Bay. Perhaps it will help him
avoid notions that people are all alike and all no
good as, now reading fluently, he soon discovers
the many human activities that impel publication of
ANIMAL PEOPLE for an audience of Jiro-Sans.
We wish, though, that Turtle Bay had delved on
into why people are not all alike and all no good,
and how they manage to live with paradox.