Turtle Progress

Most of the baby turtles that were brought in to the aquarium are doing very well.  On Thursday, a number of them will be flown up to be released on the East Coast, where they are originally from.  Not sure if this little guy will go, he’s still in quarantine, but going strong and eating well.

Little A8 Won’t Eat

It’s easy to forget that animals like turtles are individual beings with their own quirks and peculiarities.  For example, unlike most of the other turtles in rehab, this little guy, in quarantine tank A8, refuses to eat.

I spent extra long with him today, trying to persuade him to eat but in the end it was clearly just stressing him out too much. I’m not sure how much longer he will live if he doesn’t take in any food, but if he refuses to eat there’s little we can do.

Meet Bob

This is Bob. He was found injured and with a belly full of plastic and balloons. It’s a dramatic story, and you can read about it here, ( it has a happy ending!)

I saw Bob the green turtle just the other day, in a bin on the aquarium roof. This is a picture I took of him. He’s improved so much since he was found .  Lovely creature.


Meet “M” and “N”. They are inside, in one of the many quarantine tanks where the weaker turtles are being kept for observation.
See that little triangular bit taken out of the food I’m holding? That’s the profile of their little mouths. N, in particular, made valiant attempts at clipping pieces out of my hand. Luckily his jaws are not nearly strong enough!

I now have a sore back from crouching over tanks all day long, persuading baby turtles to eat.  Most of them did, but some of the wilder ones that have recently arrived were not interested.

Weighing the babies

Today, volunteer duty at the Two Oceans was unusually interesting: weighing and feeding just under 200 baby turtles.

These little guys were washed up on our Cape Town beaches, far from the warm Indian Ocean currents where they belong. They are all starving, suffering from hypothermia and dehydration and various other ailments as a result of their traumatic experience.

If they survive and grow big and strong they’ll be taken back up to their home waters and released. But first they must put on some weight!

Here are some more pictures of the baby turtles.  Apparently, although there are little ones found on our beaches every year, there’s never been so many as there are this year. Already nearly 200 and still more expected.  
These ones are teeny tiny, and can fit in the palm of your hand. 
They are numbered so that we can keep track of how they are doing. Every day, they get weighed, and the ones that are not doing so well are moved in to their own little quarantine tank.  The rest get to hang out together in bigger tanks.

Today there was one that died, poor little guy, and one that’s refused to eat for two days now. The others are gulping their food down like real little troupers.  In fact, you have to watch it or they will nip at your fingers!

This is what we feed them. Doesn’t it look good? 🙂  A pureed mix of clam, pilchard, and other seafood, set in gelatin.  Has quite a niff to it, but the babies love it.

Wolf Logic is published!

At long last,  Wolf Logic is available for sale on Amazon.  Wolf Logic  is part of the two book series that starts with Crooks & Straights. These are fantasy novels set in an alternate version of contemporary South Africa where magic is real and magical creatures live and work among the rest of us.



For those of you who don’t have the first book yet, here is the link to Crooks & Straights.  

The Swan Drawing

This might be my final illustration for Wolf Logic.  I’ve not posted all the illustrations on here…got to save some surprises for the book itself!


Insects and Squid: More Wolf Logic drawings

Here are some more illustrations-in-progress for my book Wolf Logic.  These really are unfinished!

This one is of a “lacefester” which is a creature that appears early in the story. Not very dangerous, but better left alone. It has the ability to create a mesmerizing hologram between its antennae, to distract potential enemies.  It’s much sought after for the powders and talismans that can be made from its dried body, so there aren’t that many of them around any more.


Gia spends a lot of time cutting up squid in this story. So I had to draw that too, of course:


Illustrations in progress for Wolf Logic

I’ve finished writing Wolf Logic.  (Or I hope I have, I’m still waiting for some feedback from my critique partners so we’ll see what happens then!)

In the meantime, I’ve started on the drawings for the book.  Here are some I’ve already shared, but redrawn.  Billy and Spyker:

Billy is a big guy, but very gentle, generous, and good natured. He’s not quite human, having a bit of bear in him. He loves surfing, helping his friend Spyker to create street art, and he funds this by selling illicit and stolen magical technology.  He’s not the most responsible of people, but he has a warm heart.



Spyker is not as easy to get on with as Billy is, and I suspect Billy is his only friend.  He is an artist, creating magnificent graffiti pieces that Billy enhances with lighting and other electronic flourishes.  Spyker can climb like a gecko, and has an affinity for electricity – he can shock you with a pinch. He’s not very reliable, and cares only for himself.  But you can get on his good side by admiring his artwork.


Turtles big and small

I skived off from the perpetual squid-cutting duties to go and watch the turtles being fed.  Up on top of the Two Oceans aquarium, on the roof, is the quarantine area where sick animals and new arrivals are kept.  But these are by far the most charming.  A whole row of tanks, each one with a baby turtle flailing around inside it signalling “feed me!” with their flippers.

These little guys were rescued, found washed up on the beaches here in Cape Town. They are from the warmer east coast and got swept here into our cold waters where they usually die of hypothermia, or drown, unless they are rescued.  They are being kept here until they are big and strong and healthy enough to be released again.


A little further on, in a big drum covered over with netting is this:


This is Otto, a rescued hawskbill turtle who was found washed up and dying at Yzerfontein.  The photo doesn’t really convey how impressive she is.  She’s a big girl, and she looks as though she’s doing really well now.

In case you are interested:

The Penguin Gang

They are cute, but their beaks are sharp, and they have plenty of attitude.

I had to reach in behind the tree — one of those rocks is actually a lid on a pipe, which I had to fill with water for the tree.  I felt a little…uncertain about putting my ungloved hand in among these guys.  I hung out with them for a bit, and showed them the hosepipe (Peck! Nip! Not Edible!) and the lid of the pipe (Nip! Peck! Might Be Edible! Nip!) and after a lot of “Hey, nice day, isn’t it? Don’t mind me, I’m just standing here with my hosepipe” they eventually allowed me to get near enough to fill the pipe.


Ghost in the Aquarium

I arrived a little early for my aquarium volunteer shift at the Two Oceans this morning.  Lights were still off.  Quite amazingly spooky, walking around in a dark aquarium.


The baby ragged-tooth sharks were the best, but the tank was so dark the picture I took came out completely black 🙂  So all I’ve got to show is this hungry stingray.

Hermit Crab Rehoming

Yesterday, I saw a hermit crab swop homes.  I’ve never seen that before!  In the picture, he’s back in his original shell.  He tried out the periwinkle shell facing him, for a bit, and then decided it’s not quite to his taste and whipped himself back to his old home again.

We’ll have to find him a large enough shell.  He was clambering up to the curved out-pipe that drains the pond, and fingering it with all his feelers, clearly going “Hmm.  This one has potential, definite potential.”

“Teaching and Amusing” the work of Ermanno Libenzi

One of the amazing things about having a blog is that every now and then, the people you write about, write back!  Imagine my delight in getting an email from Ermanno Libenzi, the author of quite a few of the books that were my absolute, all-time favorites when I was a little girl.  You might have seen my post on his book “Ernest in the Wild West” which you can see here and which drew a lovely conversation in the comments, from people all over the world who love those books just as much as I do.

Ermanno tells me there is a chance that these books might be republished.  How amazing would that be!  So I’m honored to  host a guest post here by Ermanno Libenzi, in which he reminds us of who he is, and why he wrote those books in the first place.  If you are interested to see more of Ermanno’s books, here is a link to some of them.


Autobiographical notes.

I was born in Milan, Italy, and grew up amid printed paper. My father was a journalist at  the “Corriere della Sera”, the leading Italian newspaper, and his  home library room was full not only of books, but also of magazines and newspapers of various nationalities. I was terribly curious to know the meaning of all those big written words I saw in his magic room. I’m sure that it was this curiosity which pressed me to become an early reader.

I began, of course, with the first elementary picture books, then I passed to fairy tales, soon I discovered the joys of comic strips, and through them  I reached the vast world of adventure books: pirates, cow-boys, explorers were my first unforgettable heroes. Years later, I made those stories live again in three hilarious children’s books I wrote: “Robin and the Pirates”, the story of a smart little boy who finds himself on board of a pirate vessel,  and the two adventures of Ernest, a funny gentleman, photographer and explorer. In the first book he wanders  through the astonishing  mysteries of Africa, in the second one, he crosses the savage world  of the Wild West. I entrusted the genius of illustration Adelchi Galloni with the task of realizing at his best the three books’ drawings.  I can say that he really  managed to  bring the imagery and language of comics into the sphere of art.


One day, exploring my father’s bookcases, by chance I opened the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. That was for me the entrance door to the fascinating world  of the great European and American novels.

In my opinion, nothing can help a child, and later a boy, to acquire a complete cultural and sentimental education more than an early reading of these masterpieces, when our soul is clean as a white sheet of paper, and our personality is quickly developing. Reading great books is really the best food for our spirit. Moreover, the literary masterpieces  can teach us how to give full expression  to our thoughts and sentiments through the language, both written and spoken.

Thanks to all the printed paper of my childhood,  I started writing  and publishing books  when I was still very young. Everything is new, when you are in your twenties. No conventions bind your fantasy, no obligations, no commonplaces block your creativity, and sometimes  the results  of this state of grace are surprising.

I remember that when I was 25 years old,  a little, sorrowful  idea had been  turning over in my mind for a long time. I thought that it was so pleasant  to go around riding a bicycle or a motorbike.  So pleasant but unfortunately also so dangerous.  Every year a dreadful number of young people  are victims all over the world in road accidents. I thought that writing a book on that argument could certainly be an useful project. The real problem was the way I could transform a boring Road Safety manual into a readable and maybe agreeable children’s book. I thought that the best thing I could do was to keep my hand very light, to be cheerful  but giving affordable tips, and above all to avoid anxiety-inducing lessons, which could only frighten readers.  A fearful, hesitating driver is constantly in danger, more or less like a reckless driver.

After the book was published, it happened an incredible thing.  It won the “Premio Bancarellino”, the main Italian literary prize dedicated to children’s literature. Simply, I couldn’t believe it. Yet that prize was above suspicion, because its jury was, and still is, composed by hundreds of young readers coming from all the Italian regions.

My explanation of the mystery was that it was just this unconventional kind of jury which allowed my book to win the prize. I was on the same unconventional wavelength as them, while a jury made of lofty critics never could admit a manual for young cyclist into the elite of Italian children’s literature.

Nevertheless I felt a little bit guilty: my light-hearted manual had prevailed over demanding biographies and committed historical novels… I decided to redeem myself. Four years later, I managed to win the same prize again with a serious book based on true historical episodes happened in Italy during the Second World War.


In the following years I divided my professional activity among editorial work, journalism and children’s books writing.

I wrote about thirty children’s books of various subjects:  tales, picture books,  young adult science fiction, short stories, historical and scientific non fiction.

My Italian publishers were Mondadori, Garzanti and Vallecchi. Abroad, my books were published  by Hamlyn in the United Kingdom, Platt & Munk in the United States, Nathan and Sarbacane in France, Duculot in Belgium, Südwest Verlag in Germany, Turbine Forlaget in Sweden and Danmark, Lasten Kerkus in Finland, Beijing Timebook Culture Spread in China, Holp Shuppan and Rippu Shobo in Japan, Orell Füssli Verlag  In Switzerland.

First of all, I always tried to stick at the basic duty of every narrator: to entertain, to fascinate his readers – both children and adults, i.e. their parents – with  amusing and/or engaging stories. At the same time, I always tried to pursue a moral aim in my work, yet carefully trying to avoid moralism. In particular, I always cultivated  a strong interest in ecology, environmentalism and human rights. As a journalist, I wrote many articles in defence of animals, particularly against hunting.  Last, but not least, I did my best to keep in mind  that a storyteller has  a fantastic opportunity. He  can deliver – without appearing to do so – a lot of sound principles. Ancient Romans,  two thousand years ago,  called this pedagogical concept “docendo ludere”, that means  “teaching and amusing”.  I hope that this can be my motto.




Squirting Squid Eyes

I did my first stint of “Behind the Scenes” work at the Two Oceans aquarium today. It was great! I’ll probably get all jaded and bored with this stuff soon enough, but right now everything is new and interesting.

First thing in the morning – went to the office to sign in, and found a penguin standing there, eyeing every body up and down 🙂 Very cute.

Cleaned the tank of a mantis shrimp (the creature of Oatmeal fame) which is apparently the most intelligent of the crustaceans.  Had to work with long-stemmed implements, as putting my hand in the water would be a bit dangerous.  To quote from that Oatmeal link, mantis shrimp can accelerate to the velocity of a bullet shot from a 22 calibre rifle, and strike with a force of 1500 Newtons.  Ouch!

Here he is:



I also had to keep track of a single fish ( a spotted grunter) in a shoal of many, many others, to help a diver catch it so it could go into quarantine.

And for most of the time, I cut  piles and piles of shrimp, squid, and redbait into tiny pieces.  This platter was lunch for the giant spider crabs. The big lesson here was that squid eyes squirt fluid all over the place if you don’t watch it.  Also, they have little tiny beaks like parrots, I’d never seen those before.


Just being in the aquarium is such a pleasure – for example, here’s a glimpse of the White Steenbras in the Kelp Tank:


And that’s it until the week after next, when I’m on duty again 🙂


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