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Children's Fiction General

Leatherback Blues

The Wild Place Adventure Series

by (author) Karen Hood-Caddy

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2018
General, Turtles, Environment
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2018
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Robin is kidnapped by dangerous poachers while trying to save leatherback turtles in Central America.

Robin Green is carrying on her work rescuing vulnerable animals at The Wild Place Animal Shelter when she and Zo-Zo get an amazing chance to help protect sea turtles in Central America. Worried about the bugs, the heat, and the threat of poachers, Robin faces her fears and travels there with Zo-Zo, her brother, Squirm, and her eccentric grandmother, Griff.

It only takes one scorpion sting before Robin wants to go home, but the unbelievable sight of a leatherback turtle laying eggs on the beach changes her mind. Just when the group starts making progress, the poachers strike back. Suddenly, the turtles aren’t the only ones who need rescuing! Can Robin and Zo-Zo find a way out?

About the author

Karen Hood-Caddy was born in Toronto and educated at Toronto schools. Although she lived in the city as a child, she spent her summers and as many weekends as possible at the family cottage in Muskoka. Her love of the wilderness and particularly of the Muskoka region of Ontario developed early and greatly influenced her entire life. Karen graduated from York University, where she was vice-president of the student’s council, with a degree in sociology. She began her career as a social worker in Toronto, but after several years, feeling jaded and burnt-out, she moved to Scotland. There she lived for seven years at the Findhorn Institute, an international spiritual community, where she was soon leading workshops in meditation and self-empowerment. Her experiences there and her extensive travels throughout India, Greece, Central Europe, Ireland, Morocco and the United States have proven to be important influences in her writing. As a writer, Karen has had poems, short stories and articles published in Canada, the United States and Scotland, but her real passion is for reading and writing novels. A few years ago, John Robert Columbo stated in the Globe and Mail that Karen Hood-Caddy was ”a writer to keep an eye on“. Karen currently lives in Muskoka. She still loves the wilderness and believes passionately in the importance of the preservation of our environment. The fact that she is able to live and work in Muskoka, one of the most beautiful regions in Canada, provides her with a continuing source of satisfaction and happiness.

Karen Hood-Caddy's profile page

Excerpt: Leatherback Blues: The Wild Place Adventure Series (by (author) Karen Hood-Caddy)

The phone rang and rang. Robin wiped the last bit of grunge from the metal cage, dragged one soapy hand along her jeans, and reached for the phone.
“The Wild Place Animal Shelter.” She felt excited. This was the first call of the season.
“You take raccoons?” a man growled. “Baby ones? I got three. Half-dead.”
Robin’s stomach clenched. Half-dead? Why? Where was the mother?
“Can you bring them in to the shelter?”
“Don’t drive.”
Robin turned to her grandmother, who was cleaning cages beside her.
“Griff, can we do a pickup? Three baby raccoons.” She put her hand over the mouthpiece. “Half-dead, the guy said.”
Griff nodded and started to untie the apron she always wore in the barn, the one with a huge owl on the front. “We better get a move on then.” She pushed her long braid of silvery-white hair over her shoulder.
“Be there as soon as we can.” Robin scribbled down directions and hung up.
Zo-Zo, her best friend, walked across the barn carrying a stack of cages.
“Half-dead’s better than three-quarters dead,” Zo-Zo said. She set the cages down and pushed her thick glasses that were as big as swim goggles farther up her nose. “Remember that loon last year? He looked as dead as a doornail when he came in. But he lived.”
Yeah. Robin smiled. She’d thought he was a goner too. She winced, remembering. Some kid had hit him with his boat. The loon had bruises on every part of his body. She’d had to work her heart out, but she had saved him. Her reward had come a few months later, when they’d been able to release him and she’d watched him fly off into the wild blue sky. If only all rescues could end so well.
Zo-Zo tightened the laces on her flame-red sneakers. “How many baby raccoons are we picking up?”
“What happened to the mom?”
Robin shrugged. She should have asked. What was the matter with her?
She yanked off her barn shirt. It was one of her dad’s old plaid ones, big enough to go over her regular clothes. Every time she wore it, she felt as if she was being hugged by him.
“Meet you in the van.”
She walked quickly to the farmhouse and went into the kitchen. It smelled of the toast they’d had there a little while ago. Zo-Zo had stayed over and they’d made French toast, thick and fluffy, then slathered chunky bits of butter on top and a ton of maple syrup. Her brother, Squirm, had eaten five pieces.
She checked the coat rack. Her dad’s coat was gone. He must have already left for the vet clinic. But Ari’s over-the-knee leather boots were there. They were tall and elegant. Like something out of a fashion magazine.
Robin yelled up the stairwell.
Silence yawned into the space. Robin dashed up the stairs and burst into their shared bedroom. Her sister was sitting on the bed, painting her toenails. She looked up at Robin with a pained expression and pulled one side of her headphones slightly away from her ear. There was the sound of pounding music.
“We’re going on a rescue. Can you listen for the phone?”
Ari stared at her as if Robin had just asked her to wash the floor.
Robin stared back. Why did she have to have such a girlie-girl sister? Why couldn’t she have a sister who loved the shelter like Zo-Zo did?
The word half-dead repeated in her mind. She spun around and hurried down the stairs. The time between half-dead and full-out dead could be short. She knew that from experience. There was no time to waste.
When she got to the van, she unzipped the big maroon rescue bag and checked the contents: blanket, shovel, scissors, two knives, a sling, various lengths of rope, packages of formula, water, bandages, antiseptic creams, and other medications. Everything was there.
“Come on,” Zo-Zo called from the front seat.
Robin left the bag unzipped, pushed it forward, and climbed into the back. She was about to shut the door when Relentless jumped in behind her, her dog eyes pleading, Let me come this time, PLEASE?
Robin ran her open palm over her dog’s sleek, black forehead. She used to take Relentless on rescues, but a drunk hunter had taken a shot at her last year, so Robin left her at home now. Rescues could be dangerous. And there was something about this one that was feeling weird.
“You’ll get your chance to help later,” Robin said and eased Relentless out of the van.
Griff climbed into the driver’s seat, smiled at Zo-Zo, and started the engine. They were pulling away when the back door of the van sprang open. In a dramatic, commando-style manoeuvre, Squirm threw himself in beside her.
Robin rolled her eyes upward. “Oh, Squirm.” When was this Ninja Turtle stage ever going to end?
Squirm began juggling jujubes. “Where we going?”
“You’ll see.” Squirm was eleven, two years younger, but he acted like he was the same age as her. With the same rights.
He caught one of the jujubes in his mouth, stuffed the others back in his pocket, and pulled open a tattered insect identification book that he kept in the side pocket of the van.
Robin glanced at the pictures of the brightly coloured insects. He had drawings and pictures like this all over his room too. The kids at school called him Bug Boy. The name fit him perfectly.
They careened down the driveway, then picked up speed on the main road. As usual, Griff drove the van like a fire truck on the way to a blaze. All that was missing was the siren.
Robin rolled down the window and stuck her head outside. She loved the spring. The air was dense and cool, but full of the smell of wet, moist things coming back to life. Finally. Only a few weeks ago the snow in the woods had been up to her armpits. But no more. Now it was gone. Completely gone. And the forest floor was dotted with yellow trout lilies and white trilliums. All her old friends were coming back — the purple crocuses, the yellow finches, the —
“Hey!” Robin shouted. The automatic window was sliding up, cutting into her throat. She groped for the window switch and pushed it hard. The window slid back down into the holster of the door.
She glared at Squirm. “What’d you do that for?” Squirm thrust his bare, freckled arm into her face so she could see the goosebumps.
She looked him over. He wasn’t wearing a jacket or much else to keep him warm. Only shorts and a T-shirt. Served him right if he was cold.
The van barrelled around a sharp corner and Squirm slid against her. When the van straightened, he stayed close, nestling into her warmth. She thought about pushing him away. It was his own fault that he had goosebumps. But feeling sorry for him, she reached back, pulled the blanket from the rescue bag, and wrapped it around him. Sometimes he was such a sucky puppy.

Editorial Reviews

No superheroes in this inspiring story, just committed kids willing to do the hard work — internal and external — to make a positive difference.

Kirkus Reviews

Hood-Caddy’s strength lies in her vivid descriptions of the various animal rescues… Leatherback Blues is a good choice for animal lovers

CM Magazine

A STEM-filled adventure that helps introduce readers to creatures from all around the world. Hand to animal-lovers, aspiring environmentalists, and fans of the series.


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