After her son’s Thoreau School class got involved in raising the baby Blanding’s Turtles, Concord author Diana Renn came up with the idea for a new children’s mystery novel.
“Trouble at Turtle Pond” tells the story of 11-year-old Miles, who moves to a new town and joins a group of young rangers to protect wildlife at a local refuge. When he uncovers a criminal threat to the endangered turtle population, Miles and his friends must work together to solve the mystery and save the turtles.
The book, though fictional, is loosely based on the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, home to the state’s largest population of endangered Blanding’s Turtles, and the story draws on Renn’s experience with conservation.
“My son was involved with turtles in his classrooms at Thoreau, and he was so interested in them that we sought additional opportunities with this conservation group and eventually had 10 turtles living in a tub in our bedroom. ‘friends,’ Renn said. “I found it to be such an inspiring process, I was inspired by the energy of the children and the work of the conservation group, and it was a way for me to extend my conservation and advocacy work and amplify what they do.”
Since 2009, local K-12 schools have been giving endangered turtles a head start by raising them in their classrooms until they are big enough to fend off predators and other threats. The program was started in Concord by Dr. Bryan Windmiller, but has since been taken over by the New England Zoo Field Conservation Department.
Endangered turtles raised in Concord classrooms thrive years later at Great Meadows
Now, the Hatchling and Turtle Conservation Through Headstarting (HATCH) program has more than 30 K-12 students statewide, and hundreds of baby Blanding’s, Wood, Spotted and Snapping Turtles have been given a length of d progress in local classrooms.
Not only that, but students like Renn’s son can play a role in protecting species in their own backyards. Although he stopped caring for the Blanding’s turtles, he continued to advocate for the animals, Renn said, which “Trouble at Turtle Pond” aims to encourage.
“There is a strong message of conservation and being a good neighbor of wildlife and a good steward of the environment, having compassion for the little creatures invisible to us who cannot speak for themselves,” Renn said. “It’s about kids solving a crime, but they’re also activists, their detective works as activism too, so anyone can do it even if they don’t live next to the Blanding’s Turtles .”
Renn is the author of three other young adult mystery novels and was working on a thriller when she decided to step out of her comfort zone to incorporate real science into her writing. While generally focusing on criminal networks, “Trouble at Turtle Pond” also features a network of conservationists.
“Even though the book is fictional — it’s a summer adventure and there’s a wacky mystery to hook people — there are real examples of real threats to local turtles and other turtles,” Renn said. “So I hope people in the community will pay a little more attention to turtles. We can pay attention to habitat fragmentation, we can make our backyards more turtle-friendly, we can make a donate to the program or roll up our sleeves and volunteer, so if people are interested in reading my book, then it’s a success.”
The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton is hosting a launch event for “Trouble at Turtle Pond” on Wednesday, April 6 from 7-8 p.m.
A portion of the proceeds from books sold and pre-ordered in the store will be donated to the New England Zoo Grounds Conservation Department and the HATCH program.
For more event information and to purchase, visit silverunicornbooks.com/events/15818