Saving the Day with Nani the Brave Little Turtle

Being brave is something that we all struggle with from time to time. We tell kids to be brave whenever they encounter something new. It can be a hard thing for them to understand, but there are some great books to help them. The Brave Little Turtle by Gill McBarnet not only shows kids how to be brave, but brings an environmental issue to light which can inspire kids to take action! There are lots of ocean activities you can do to reinforce these messages with your kids.

Standard Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. In order to support this blog and continue providing free content, I may receive a commission from purchases you make through the links in this post. I received a complimentary copy of this book and compensation for my review, but the ideas and opinions are completely my own.

The Brave Little Turtle was written and illustrated by Gill McBarnet. It tells the story of Nani, a timid little turtle who learns she can be brave when she needs to be. Her best friend is another little turtle named Lono, who is much bolder than Nani. When Lono finds himself tangled in some plastic floating in the ocean, Nani learns to be brave in  order to help her friend. This book shows how we can be brave when faced with danger, while also teaching kids about the damage that is done to the oceans and sea creatures in them when humans throw plastic waste into the water.

This touching story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations which take the reader to the Hawaiian shores, while introducing them to some of the sea life found there. There are so many fun ways to bring this book to life and teach kids about the importance of protecting our oceans.

The Inspiration Behind the Story

I had the opportunity to ask the author about her intentions behind the book, and what inspired her to create books for children.

What was the inspiration behind writing the book?

The inspiration for “The Brave Little Turtle” was a desire to demonstrate
that even a seemingly timid person can become emboldened. It’s wonderful to watch self confidence developing in a child! (On another level, I wanted “Brave Turtle”
to dramatically show children how harmful plastic trash is, for our sea creature friends.)

What made you decide to tell stories through children’s books?

I’ve always been an avid reader which encouraged me to “tell” my own stories. Then, when I became a teacher I discovered how wonderful it is when children are entranced by stories. It’s deeply satisfying for a teacher (or parent!) to see a child’s eyes light up, when they are drawn in to a story!

What do you hope kids will take from the story?

I hope children will acknowledge that being brave isn’t about being the biggest or noisiest “show-off”, but rather about discovering inner bravery in times of crisis. I hope kids will share Nani – the brave little turtle’s – triumph and sense of achievement!

Recycled Sea Creatures

Recycled Turtles
– This project uses recycled bottles to create adorable turtles that float. This is a great reminder that we should recycle plastic bottles to create something new instead of letting it end up in the oceans. Carefully cut the bottom off of a 1 liter or 2 liter pop bottle. (The bumps will be part of the turtle’s shell). Cut a circle shape out of foam, just slightly larger than the shell. (I used a recycled egg carton). Attach the plastic shell to the foam circle with glue. Weigh it down while the glue dries. I cut four flippers and a head shape out of a green sponge and attached them with glue to the underside of our turtle. You could also cut these shapes out of the foam you used for the turtle’s body. Once it is dry, your turtle can now float on water!


Plastic Bag Jellyfish – This project uses a recycled plastic bag to create a fun sea creature which kids will love to watch and play with. Cut a small square out of a plastic bag as well as some thin strips. Pour about a tablespoon of water into the middle of the square and then gather it up into a little pouch. Use one of the thin strips to tie the pouch closed. Tie the other strips around the same section, creating dangling tentacles. Once you have a jellyfish shape, fill an empty bottle with water and blue food coloring. Gently push your jellyfish through the mouth of the bottle, then seal the bottle. Turn the bottle over and move it around to see the jellyfish move through the water.

Exploring with Turtles

Turtle Sensory Table – Set up a sensory table or a small plastic bin for your sensory experience. Because turtles make their way from the nests on the sand to the ocean, you can set up a sensory experience that utilizes both sand and water. Create a rock wall down the middle of the bin with medium sized stones. Fill one end of the table with some sand, and pour some water or water beads into the other end. Place plastic turtles, sea shells and miniature eggs into the table and encourage kids to explore and play. Talk to them about how turtles make their way to the ocean after they hatch, like Nani and Lono did in the book.

Emphasizing Positive Qualities

Photo Frame – The beautiful artwork in the story includes frames which draw attention to something happening in the story. For example, when Lono gets the plastic stuck around his neck, the frame emphasizing the scene includes pieces of plastic and debris. This provides a great opportunity to allow kids to showcase their artistic talents while emphasizing something about themselves. Have kids decorate the outer rim of a paper plate with colors, pictures or designs which they feel represent themselves in a positive way. They could use numbers if they are great at math, or sports equipment if they are athletic, etc. When they have finished decorating their frame, attach a photo of them to the center of the plate.

Getting Involved

Helping Out – This book is a great way to encourage kids to get involved and help clean up our oceans. Many areas have groups that volunteer to clean up the waterfront. Look for groups in your area that need volunteers and spend a day cleaning up the beach together. If you don’t live near a waterfront, encourage kids to get involved in other ways. Research together how you can help these organizations, or find a group in your area that promotes recycling. Getting involved will teach your kids the importance of taking care of the environment, while also bringing you closer as a family!

The Brave Little Turtle is a great book for talking to kids about ocean conservation, bravery and friendship. It is currently available here through The Islander Group.


  • Lauren | also known as mama

    May 1, 2017 at 7:41 am Reply

    We’re totally going to make those recycled sea turtles! Such a cute idea!!

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 12:57 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! Thank you!

  • Jalisa Harris

    May 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm Reply

    I love the concept. What a great way to inspire little ones. My son is learning all about the Earth in prek. This would be a great thing to upping towards him.

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 1:02 pm Reply

      It’s a great book which introduces such important concepts in a colorful way!

  • ryan

    May 1, 2017 at 2:53 pm Reply

    Great new book to check out1 Love the idea of the turtle being inspired by shy children who just need a little time to come out of their shells.

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 8:12 pm Reply

      Me too! I was a shy child myself, so I think helping kids overcome their shyness with books is awesome.

  • Kayla O'Neill

    May 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm Reply

    I love the message behind this story! Such a cute idea with the turtle craft…so great that you can teach about recycling as well! 🙂

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 8:19 pm Reply

      Thank you! It is a great book, and I love that there are so many great messages in it.

  • Hanna

    May 1, 2017 at 4:11 pm Reply

    This looks like a great book! I love the theme of learning to be bold and brave even when you may not think that you are!

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm Reply

      I do too! It is a very sweet story.

  • Unum Shafiq

    May 1, 2017 at 4:30 pm Reply

    Before I write about your post, I have to tell you that I absolutely love your blog. I read this post and then the last one and then several others. So engrossed was I that I stayed up late several hours last night.

    And what cute ideas in this post. Definitely going to try them with my kid.

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 8:21 pm Reply

      Thank you! I hope have a lot of fun with them!

  • Corey | The Nostalgia Diaries

    May 1, 2017 at 5:57 pm Reply

    I need to read this book to my daughter! She’s learning about sea turtles at school and I bet she would find this really fun – especially the activities that go with it!

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 8:23 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! It is a great book and there are so many great lessons in it!

  • Erin

    May 1, 2017 at 8:29 pm Reply

    I love the messages in this book! I’ll have to share with my boys and we love doing activities that accompany the book! Thanks for sharing.

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 10:28 pm Reply

      I hope you enjoy it!

  • Tayler Morrell

    May 1, 2017 at 10:10 pm Reply

    What a cute little book–I love the illustrations. I also love kids books that come with a call to action!

    • Vicki

      May 1, 2017 at 10:28 pm Reply

      It is a fantastic book! I love that it has so many lessons wrapped in a beautiful book.

  • Camesha | Mama Motivator

    May 2, 2017 at 12:48 am Reply

    What an adorable little book! My kids would love this story. I love the call to action aspect. No the norm and I love it.

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 12:04 pm Reply

      I agree! I love books that teach such important lessons in a fun and colorful way!

  • Belle

    May 2, 2017 at 7:39 am Reply

    These are such great ideas! I love the recycled turtle! I think that’s going to be fun to make.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm Reply

      Thank you! We had a lot of fun with it!

  • Melissa @ Disco Bumblebee

    May 2, 2017 at 9:01 am Reply

    This sounds like a wonderful book! I love your recycled sea creatures idea too – so neat!

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm Reply

      Thank you! My daughter loves playing with them!

  • Shauna Moreno

    May 2, 2017 at 12:19 pm Reply

    I’ve nominated you for the blogger recognition award! I really love your blog and your focus on books with your related activities! Check out my post about it ->

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm Reply

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

  • Louisa

    May 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm Reply

    Love the inspiration behind this story. Finding confidence takes courage and belief in one’s self. Sounds like a great book 🙂

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 5:16 pm Reply

      It is! I love the messages in it.

  • Meredith

    May 2, 2017 at 5:37 pm Reply

    I’m SO glad someone is writing a kid’s book about the poor sea creatures getting trapped in the plastic!!! I’ve always cut those things up just in case they happened to find a way into some body of water, and I’m going to make sure to teach my daughter to do the same thing. This book sounds like a must-have to teach the importance!!

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 8:30 pm Reply

      Me too! I am so careful to always cut the plastic apart! I will definitely teach my daughter to do the same. This book is definitely a great start!

  • rachel

    May 2, 2017 at 6:49 pm Reply

    Super cute story! And I love your crafts!!

    • Vicki

      May 2, 2017 at 8:30 pm Reply

      Thank you!

  • Rabia @ The Liebers

    May 3, 2017 at 8:49 am Reply

    So cute! My brother “adopted” a sea turtle for my daughter’s birthday one year. She loved getting all the updates and learning about sea creatures!!

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm Reply

      Aw, that is awesome! My aunt adopted a penguin when we were younger. We thought it was so cool to have a wild animal “in the family”!

  • Jamie

    May 3, 2017 at 9:09 am Reply

    This book looks awesome for little kids. Love all the crafts and sensory activities you can make to go along with the book. Such a great idea! Love!

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm Reply

      Thank you! It is a really great book, with so many great lessons in it!

  • Marcie in Mommyland

    May 3, 2017 at 9:10 am Reply

    We have a lot of children’s books from Hawaii, but we don’t have this one. It looks like a great story that highlights the importance of recycling properly and encourages kids to have self-confidence. I’m going to check it out!

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm Reply

      I hope you enjoy it! She has a whole line of great books about Hawaii!

  • Kim

    May 3, 2017 at 9:26 am Reply

    Must get this book for my kiddos! My son is going to love doing this craft! Can’t wait!

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 12:01 pm Reply

      I’m so glad! I hope you have a lot of fun with it!

  • Elizabeth Brico

    May 3, 2017 at 3:18 pm Reply

    Awww I have a special place in my heart for turtles. “Turtle” was my son’s favorite word, right after one swam under me in Hawai’i. He lost all of his language, but turtles still seem to pop up around him a lot…he and my husband even rescued one from the middle of the road in Florida once! A SNAPPING turtle! (My husband really did the rescuing, but, ya know, the kiddo was there)

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 8:23 pm Reply

      Aw, that is so sweet they rescued one. I bet he remembers it fondly, but were you scared?? Snapping turtles can be scary!

  • ohmummymia

    May 3, 2017 at 4:28 pm Reply

    sounds like lovely book. I love to buy books for my boy. I will try to get this one:)

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 8:26 pm Reply

      I hope you enjoy it!

  • Bre Paulson

    May 3, 2017 at 9:20 pm Reply

    I love the life lesson and story that this book tells! I was such a timid kid that being brave is one of the more important characteristics that I try to instill in my daughter.

    • Vicki

      May 3, 2017 at 10:45 pm Reply

      I was a very timid kid too! I like that the character in this book learns to be brave when necessary, but that being a little timid isn’t bad either!

  • maria criselda maquiling

    May 4, 2017 at 10:29 am Reply

    This is complete package recommendation. I love that the book came with suggested activities from this blog that are related to the book.the brave little turtle seems like a good read for kids because it combines bravery with environmentalism. It makes the lesson current and real to the world we live in

    • Vicki

      May 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm Reply

      It is a great book packed with several great lessons!

  • Amy

    May 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm Reply

    What a great message! I’ll have to get this for my niece!

    • Vicki

      May 4, 2017 at 8:42 pm Reply

      I hope she likes it! I really liked that it had so many great messages in it!

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