Writing from the Animal’s POV

Run, Sea Turtle, Run by Stephen R. Swinburne

I absolutely adore sea turtles. I made certain that I worked them into The Evolution of Reptiles. So when I saw a recommendation of Run, Sea Turtle, Run: A Hatchling’s Journey by Stephen R. Swinburne, I checked it out from the library. I was in for a surprise and it started right on the first spread.

“Can you hear me?

Scritch, scratch.

I’m a sea turtle.

I’m inside an egg.”

I truly dislike “nonfiction” titles that anthropomorphize animals. An animal is anthropomorphized when it is given human traits. Most often this happens when the author presumes to know what the animal thinks or feels. Sorry. I’m hardcore when it comes to my nonfiction. Unless an animal told you, “I was worried,” you are making an assumption.

But that isn’t what Swinburne did. Yes, the story is from the POV of the baby sea turtle but the turtle’s dialogue is limited to describing events. In spite of my initial panic, I really liked this book.

The first person POV really pulls the reader in because the reader is being addressed by the turtle. It’s like the turtle is saying, “Hey, you! I’m talkin’ to you.” It makes the story feel more immediate. It becomes the story of this baby turtle right here.

Swinburne could have easily written that the turtle worried about predators. He could have said that the turtle was tired or hot or scared. But he stuck with the physical actions. The turtle breaks out of the egg, digs itself out of the nest, and scrambles to the sea.

This struggle could easily feel less focused. There are just so many little turtles. How do you focus on just one? The answer – you listen to it tell its story. This isn’t a technique that I’ve attempted but that may change if I come upon just the right story.