The most recommended turtle books

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to turtles, and here are their favorite turtle books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of turtle book?


Book cover of The Truth Has Arms and Legs

Julie Walker Author Of Bonny & Read

From Julie's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Pirate fan Forgotten women’s history buff Cat lover Reader

Julie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Julie love this book?

I’ve never really been a fan of short stories, but then I read this book. Alice Fowler has the most extraordinary gift for language, and these beautiful, sparse stories are moving and engaging in turn.

There is no spare word in them; they are there to be enjoyed and revisited over and over.

Human and compassionate, the world needs this collection of stories right now. I’ve gifted copies to friends and family already – you’ll find yourself doing the same.

By Alice Fowler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Truth Has Arms and Legs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Delve into a world of change and reinvention.

Where relationships are as delicate as turtle eggs, and just as easily smashed.

This poignant short story collection explores the pivotal moments that transform our lives. Jenny, whose life is defined by small disasters, discovers a bigger, more generous version of herself. A traveller girl might just win her race and alter her life's course. A widow, cut off in a riverside backwater, opens her heart to a stranger.

In this captivating collection by award-winning writer, Alice Fowler, readers will be moved by the raw vulnerability of human connection, and the resilience…

Turtle Diary

By Russell Hoban,

Book cover of Turtle Diary

Jean Ryan Author Of Survival Skills: Stories

From the list on the ways that animals redeem us.

Who am I?

Ever since I was a child, sitting on fallen logs in the forest and making notes on the wildlife, I have been an admirer of animals and their mysteries. That animals feel pain, fear, and affection is obvious, and while we are warned against anthropomorphism, I think the greater mistake is in limiting them to the range of human feelings. I am especially intrigued with the subject of consciousness, believing that all creatures possess their own version of it. In studying the cognizance of other beings, we become better humans, more aware of the unity of all living things. While we have no idea how far we can go in our understanding of animal behavior, it is thrilling to consider the possibilities of this frontier.

Jean's book list on the ways that animals redeem us

Why did Jean love this book?

Turtle Diary is one of my all-time favorite books. The intimate tone pulls the reader in immediately. Hoban alternates point of view between William and Neera, two lonely Londoners who accomplish a heroic feat and manage to rescue themselves in the process. The writing is spare and beautiful, peppered with delightful asides and observations: “She had a theatre programme in her hand, fresh air and perfume had come in with her. Her blonde hair and leopardskin coat looked as if they’d go out even if she stayed at home.”

By Russell Hoban,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Turtle Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two lonely Londoners bond over a plan to free the sea turtles at the city zoo in this touching novel from a cult-favorite author who has drawn comparisons to J.D. Salinger and Kurt Vonnegut.

A wise and touching classic that “crackles with witty detail, mordant intelligence and self-deprecating irony,” from the author of Riddley Walker (Time)

Life in a city can be atomizing, isolating. And it certainly is for William G. and Neaera H., the strangers at the center of Russell Hoban’s surprisingly heartwarming novel Turtle Diary.
William, a clerk at a used bookstore, lives in a rooming house after…

Rodney Was A Tortoise

By Nan Forler, Yong Ling Kang,

Book cover of Rodney Was A Tortoise

E.B. Bartels Author Of Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter

From the list on teaching kids about pet death.

Who am I?

I’m someone who has had a lot of pets in my life––dogs, fish, birds, turtles, tortoises––which means I’m also someone who has had a lot of pets in my life die, because the worst thing about pets is they don’t live as long as we do. I spent ten years writing Good Grief, but really, I’ve been researching Good Grief my whole life, ever since my first pet died. This list includes some classics I loved when I was a kid, and some newer titles that I learned about while researching Good Grief. All are wonderful and will be a balm during a hard time.  

E.B.'s book list on teaching kids about pet death

Why did E.B. love this book?

I have always had a soft spot for turtles and tortoises (I currently have two pet red-foot tortoises, Terrence and Twyla) and so I love this book because it deals with the loss of a more unusual pet.

Lots of people have dogs and cats, so often the death of a canine or feline pet is easier for others to understand––but people get sad about all kinds of pets dying, everything from tortoises to tarantulas. I wish I’d had this picture book when my first pet tortoise, Aristotle, ran away when I was in middle school.

Even people I know who love, love, love their dogs and cats didn’t fully get why I was so upset about “just a reptile.” But Nan Forler totally gets it! Tortoises are the best.

By Nan Forler, Yong Ling Kang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rodney Was A Tortoise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This comforting and gently humorous picture book about bereavement and the strength of friendship shows how a child overcomes the sadness of her beloved pet's death.

Bernadette and Rodney are the best of friends. Rodney's not so good at playing cards, but he's great at staring contests. His favorite food is lettuce, though he eats it VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY. And he's such a joker! When Bernadette goes to sleep at night, Rodney is always there, watching over her from his tank. 
As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette…

One Tiny Turtle

By Nicola Davies, Jane Chapman (illustrator),

Book cover of One Tiny Turtle: Read and Wonder

Cassandra Federman Author Of This Is a Sea Cow

From the list on children’s stories about ocean animals.

Who am I?

I've been fascinated by the ocean and all of its inhabitants for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I discovered my dad’s SCUBA license and it blew my mind that I was related to someone who was allowed to explore the underwater world! Later, when I got to college, I took advantage of two exciting opportunities. First, I got my own scuba license. Second, I studied abroad in Belize, where I conducted manatee research by tagging, tracking, and rescuing manatees. I enjoyed the time I spent with the animals, but not the lab work. Now I express my passion for sea creatures in the books I write.

Cassandra's book list on children’s stories about ocean animals

Why did Cassandra love this book?

I love informational books that don’t just list interesting facts but instead have a narrative story with interesting facts woven throughout. (Many of the books listed above fall into that category). Books like this are called “informational fiction books” or “narrative nonfiction books.” I believe the use of narrative helps kids (and all people) to learn more easily. In this book, we follow the narrative of a single loggerhead turtle and we become invested in her journey. Throughout that journey, we learn about her species, how she survives the dangers surrounding her, and how she perpetuates the species.

By Nicola Davies, Jane Chapman (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Tiny Turtle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Simple, lyrical words and bright, acrylic doublepage pictures convey the astonishing facts about the loggerhead sea turtle. . . . A powerful nature story for a young audience." — Booklist

Far, far out at sea lives one of the world's most mysterious creatures, the loggerhead turtle. For thirty years she swims the oceans, wandering thousands of miles as she searches for food. Then, one summer night, she lands on a beach to lay her eggs — the very same beach where she herself was born. Nicola Davies's lyrical text offers fascinating information about the journey of the tiny, endangered loggerhead,…

The Windward Road

By Archie Carr,

Book cover of The Windward Road: Adventures of a Naturalist on Remote Caribbean Shores

Sharika Crawford Author Of The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean: Waterscapes of Labor, Conservation, and Boundary Making

From the list on the maritime Caribbean.

Who am I?

Although my Midwestern roots in southwest Michigan situated me far away from the sea, I am now an expert on small islands and remote communities in the greater Caribbean. As a result, I grew to understand that much of the everyday lived experiences of island people must contend with the sea. As a result, I have spent the last two decades studying topics such as migration, fishing, and even conservation as related to small islands from the better-known Cayman Islands to the lesser-known San Andrés and Providencia Islands. I am a history professor at the US Naval Academy.

Sharika's book list on the maritime Caribbean

Why did Sharika love this book?

The Windward Road is a whimsical yet eye-opening account of the lesser-explored communities who hunted and ate turtles along the Caribbean coast of Central America and islands in the Caribbean Sea. Although Archie Carr was a renowned herpetologist, he was also a superb storyteller. His adventures will undoubtedly make you laugh, squirm, and empathize with the turtles and the communities that hunted them.

By Archie Carr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Windward Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1956, The Windward Road helped set in motion a movement to protect sea turtles that spread throughout the world and remains strong today. Archie Carr's unmatched style of nature writing, accessible to experienced naturalists and laypersons alike, explores some of nature's darkest mysteries with humour and much delight. His delightful stories of exploring the Caribbean while researching green turtles brings to life his deep passion for the people and biological diversity of the tropics.

The Three Questions

By Jon J. Muth,

Book cover of The Three Questions

Maxine Rose Schur Author Of Finley Finds His Fortune

From the list on children’s stories with the magic of three.

Who am I?

I teach writing for children and I’ve analyzed the elements that make a winning story. One of these elements is the magic of three. My idea for Finley Finds his Fortune, was sparked by a desire to write a folk tale with the magic of three and also by my visit to Whitechurch, the last working watermill in England. I was awed by the power and beauty of its water wheel so I wove a water mill into my story. To do this, I had to first study how a mill works. That’s what I love about writing children’s booksthat I can explore my own personal interests and passions.

Maxine's book list on children’s stories with the magic of three

Why did Maxine love this book?

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book by an artist who loves Zen philosophy. I found the book’s message a powerful guide in my own life. Nikolai is a young boy with three important questions about how to be a good person: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? And What is the right thing to do? He gets confusing answers from his animal friends even the old turtle. But when he helps a mother panda in distress, his questions are answered by the wise turtle, and Nikolai realizes that his own thoughts and actions gave him the answers. This is a story with exquisite art and great wisdom about compassion, action, and living in the now. 

By Jon J. Muth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Three Questions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy. When young Nikolai seeks counsel from Leo, the wise old turtle who lives in the mountains, he is sure Leo will know the answers to his three questions. When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? But it is Nikolai's own response to a stranger's cry for help that leads him directly to the answers he is looking for. Jon J Muth combined his studies of Zen with his love of Tolstoy to create this profound yet simple book about…

Meow Said the Cow

By Sarah Mazor,

Book cover of Meow Said the Cow

Deanie Humphrys-Dunne Author Of My Life at Sweetbrier: A Life Changed by Horses

From the list on encouraging children to believe in themselves.

Who am I?

My parents encouraged me to become a children’s author when I was very young. At first, I thought that was the silliest idea ever, but I found creating stories to be fun and inspiring. I’ve been an award-winning published author since 2009, when I had an intuition to try writing stories for children. I love being a role model for children; someone who can show them that they can achieve much more than they imagine if they persevere. My personal story, My Life at Sweetbrier; A Life Changed by Horses, is a testament that remarkable things can be accomplished through perseverance. I’m honored my work has earned many literary awards. 

Deanie's book list on encouraging children to believe in themselves

Why did Deanie love this book?

This book has adorable illustrations and wonderful, amusing rhymes that children and families will want to read again and again. It’s sure to bring smiles to everyone. Not only is it fun, but also educational. At the end of the book, there are engaging riddles with answers listed under them, so children and their families can see how well they remember the information presented in the book. It’s a must-have bedtime story for the little ones, in my opinion.

I adore this story. It first presents silly pictures, like a cow laying eggs, followed by an illustration of a hen and information on the hen and what she does. It’s so funny as well as educational. In addition to the story, there are endearing riddles at the end I feel the book will appeal to toddlers and preschoolers and they will learn a great deal by reading this funny, fact-filled…

By Sarah Mazor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meow Said the Cow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meow Said the Cow is the second in the hilarious Auntie Lily series that is a perfect read right before sleep. The mood is lightened with Auntie Lily's silly rhymes, which guarantees bedtime with a smile :)

Silly Auntie Lily
Loves cows big and small
She tells us cow stories
That make no sense at all
Loony goofy stories
Always told in rhyme
‘Cause silly Auntie Lily
Is silly all the time

Have fun and help your child develop with Meow Said the Cow - the hilarious second volume in the READY TO READ children's books series about funny, silly,…

Franklin's School Play

By Paulette Bourgeois, Brenda Clark (illustrator),

Book cover of Franklin's School Play

Mark A. Robinson Author Of The Magical Mice of Broadway

From the list on theatre written for children.

Who am I?

As a longtime arts educator who has worked predominantly with kids ages 3 to 12, I initially set out to find books that could inspire them about theatre. For many years I have searched for the perfect books that achieve this and have used all of these books in my teaching.

Mark's book list on theatre written for children

Why did Mark love this book?

Stage fright is a challenge that some performers must overcome. Some do so more easily, but when everyone’s favorite turtle Franklin is cast in the school’s production of The Nutcracker, his nerves start to get the better of him. This story is not only a great introduction to theatre, but it also features a relatable character overcoming a struggle and persevering.

By Paulette Bourgeois, Brenda Clark (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Franklin's School Play as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this Franklin Classic Storybook, Franklin has been chosen to play the Nutcracker Prince in his class's production. But will he be too nervous to say his lines when the big night arrives?


By Jean Reidy, Lucy Ruth Cummins (illustrator),

Book cover of Truman

Lisa Katzenberger Author Of It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship

From the list on facing your fears.

Who am I?

I’m a picture book writer who struggles with anxiety. Some things that seem like no big deal to most people can become a very big worry for me (like Giraffe worries about Spider in It Will Be OK). I found that identifying and naming our emotions—in this case fear—makes it easier to address our feelings and work through them. I want to share my experience of being fearful of things, both big and small, with children to let them know they are not alone and they can have power over scary emotions.

Lisa's book list on facing your fears

Why did Lisa love this book?

I love that Truman is not your typical first day of school jitters book! In this story, it’s Sarah who goes off to school and her pet turtle Truman who is left alone. He doesn’t know where Sarah went or if she will ever return. Truman is afraid of life without his Sarah! But Sarah means so much to him, he sets out to find her – climbing out of his tank, making the treacherous journey across the living room rug, and finally making it to the door. Seeing how far he travelled over the course of the day made Truman feel brave, and in that instant Sarah arrives home safe and sound. This story shows children that simply setting out to do something we are afraid of is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

By Jean Reidy, Lucy Ruth Cummins (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Truman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
A New York Times Best Children’s book of 2019
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019
A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019

"An enchanting tale of bravery, heroism, and undying devotion." —The New York Times Book Review

After his best friend Sarah leaves for her first day of school, a tortoise named Truman goes on an adventure across the living room and learns to be brave in this thoughtful and heartwarming twist on a first experience story.

Truman the tortoise lives with his Sarah, high above the taxis and the…


By Mary Vensel White,

Book cover of Bellflower

Katie O'Rourke Author Of Finding Charlie

From the list on deeply lovable dysfunctional families.

Who am I?

I was born and raised in New England, growing up along the seacoast of New Hampshire. I went to college in Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in gender and sexuality. I live in Tucson, Arizona with my sweet yellow lab and even sweeter boyfriend. I’m a hybrid author. My debut novel, Monsoon Season, was traditionally published along with A Long Thaw, which I later rereleased on my own. Finding Charlie was chosen for publication by KindleScout in 2015. My fourth book, Blood & Water launched in 2017. I write the kind of fiction I like to read: character-driven, relationship-focused, and emotionally complex.

Katie's book list on deeply lovable dysfunctional families

Why did Katie love this book?

Each of these vignettes is exquisite on its own and you're free to read it as if that’s all it is. But after you've read a few of the stories, you'll see this is a collection of pieces that fit together to make a greater, more meaningful, whole. The character you fell in love with in the beginning, who you were sorry to see go, will turn up again. The collection spans the lifetime of three main characters and their family networks and reminds us that, in the end, we’re all connected.

By Mary Vensel White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bellflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At a party thrown by his wife’s PTA friend, Glen Hanley makes a reckless choice. Terri Moore’s life has finally settled after an unexpected divorce, until her son reveals stunning news. Elderly and alone, Mrs. Hallowicz finds solace in her flowerbeds and pet turtle, but the pain of a long-buried tragedy threatens to unhinge her. Mary Vensel White’s kaleidoscopic novel-in-moments spans the lifetimes of these three characters and the network of family and friends connecting them. On the shaky ground of California, foundations can suddenly shift. Bellflower is about the mysteries of fate and chance, the delicate balance of relationships,…