Turtles of the Midnight Moon

Knopf. Mar. 2023. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593488706.
Gr 4-7–Abby and Barana, at first glance, have little in common. Shy Abby is from the U.S. and never without her camera, while Barana lives in a coastal village in Honduras and spends her free time checking on sea turtle nests at the nearby beach. When Abby joins her father on a trip to Honduras, she and Barana are told to stick together, and they aren’t happy about it. Soon, though, their mutual interest in nature causes them to strike up a partnership. As Abby learns more about the turtles and the poachers threatening them, she becomes determined to help Barana, but doing so may put them both in grave danger. This story offers a lot to connect with its target audience. Abby and Barana are both flawed but likable characters struggling with how to come into their own. Abby’s growth from being painfully shy to someone who takes risks and makes new friends will inspire readers. The turtle poaching provides an intriguing environmental mystery, especially when set against the beautiful, exquisitely described Honduran backdrop. A few areas of the story fall flat; an element of magical realism feels forced and unnecessary when the realistic setting already feels magical. The conclusion, however, is satisfying enough that readers won’t mind.
VERDICT This story will have wide appeal, reaching tweens interested in mysteries, the environment, and ocean life. While some elements may feel out of place, middle graders will still be charmed.

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