*Narrators 1, 2, and 3 (N1, N2, N3)
*Mel, an 11-year-old girl
*Marco, Mel’s best friend
Lita, Marco’s grandma
Lolo, Marco’s grandpa
When Marco’s best friend moves away, an injured turtle helps him learn an important lesson.
Learning Objective: Students will identify facts in a fictional play about a sea turtle rescue and a strong friendship.
The Florida Keys, mid-August
N1: Marco, Mel, Lita, and Lolo are on a boat.
N2: Marco is at the back, his hat pulled down low.
N3: Mel tilts her chin toward the sun and enjoys the warm breeze.
Mel: I’m going to miss this.
Marco: Then maybe you shouldn’t go.
Mel: It’s not like I have a choice. My mom got a new job, so I have to move to Boston.
N1: Mel points her Polaroid camera at him.
Marco: Why do you like Polaroids so much?
Mel: Seeing the picture appear is like magic. And I’d rather hold a photo than see it on a screen.
N2: Mel positions the camera again.
Mel: Move your hat so I can see your face.
N3: As Marco lifts his hat, a gust of wind blows it away.
Marco (shouting): My hat! Lolo, can we go back?
Lita: You have many hats.
Marco: But it’s a Red Sox cap! Mel got me that one in Boston.
Mel: I can get you another.
Marco: It’s not the same. Por favor, Lolo?
Lolo: Sí, capitán.
N1: Lolo swings the boat around.
Lolo: Do you see it?
N2: Marco points at something in the water.
Marco: Is that it?
N3: Lolo steers the boat toward the object.
Mel: That’s not a hat. It’s a turtle!
Marco: It’s just floating there.
Lolo: That is no bueno.
N1: Lolo makes a call.
Operator: Emergency Stranding Hotline.
Lolo: We’re about 10 miles east of Sombrero Beach, and we found a green turtle. It’s not swimming.
Operator: Is it coming up for air?
Operator: Can you gently poke it with something and see if it reacts?
N2: Lolo takes a long piece of tubing, leans over, and pokes the turtle’s flipper.
Lolo: It lifted its head a little!
Operator: Good. It’s still alive. Can you wait there? I’ll send the Coast Guard.
Lolo: Yes, we’ll wait.
Marco (to the turtle): Hold on, little dude. Help is coming.
The same spot, 30 minutes later
N3: The Coast Guard boat arrives.
Mel (waving): Over here!
N1: The rescuers maneuver their boat closer
N2: One rescuer carefully lifts it out of the water.
N3: The turtle’s legs and neck are thin and shriveled, its eyes sunken.
Rescuer: Poor guy looks close to starving.
N1: Mel snaps a picture of the turtle.
N2: The rescuers scoop some seawater into a shallow plastic tub lined with towels.
N3: Then they gingerly place the turtle into it.
Marco: Where are you taking him?
Rescuer: To the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. If anyone can save his life, they can.
The Turtle Hospital, the next day
N1: A smell like rotting leaves, fish, and algae [AL-jee] fills the hallway.
N2: Marco and Mel stand with Dr. Hayes outside an exam room.
N3: Through a window, they see the rescued turtle hooked up to beeping machines.
Dr. Hayes: We weren’t sure he would make it through the night.
Marco: Is he . . . is he going to die?
Dr. Hayes: It’s too soon to tell.
Mel: What’s wrong with him?
Dr. Hayes: The X-ray shows there’s something blocking his intestines. We won’t know what it is until it comes out.
Marco: How do you get it out?
Dr. Hayes: We give him vegetable oil and fiber and hope that moves it along naturally.
Marco: Does this happen a lot?
Dr. Hayes: When trash gets stuck in turtles, it can cause their bodies to fill up with gas. Then they can’t dive down and feed themselves.
Mel: If they can’t eat, they can’t survive.
Dr. Hayes: Exactly. Trash causes millions of marine animals to die every year.
N1: A smiling woman walks up.
Megan: You must be Marco and Mel. I’m Megan. (looking at the turtle) Would you like to name him? Since you found him, you can name him.
Mel: Let’s name him Marco. You saw him first
Marco: What if we combine our names?
Mel: Mel Marco?
Marco: Or the end of your name and the start of mine.
Marco: El mar means “the sea” in Spanish.
Mel: That’s perfect!
The Turtle Hospital, two weeks later
N2: Marco sits with Elmar, lightly running his fingers over the turtle’s green-and-black shell.
N3: The turtle swims around slowly.
N1: Marco shows Elmar some Polaroids.
Marco: This is Mel in her new room. This is Mel eating ramen in Boston.
N2: Megan enters.
Marco: Elmar is still so skinny.
Megan: He’s eating on his own now. Turns out he loves cucumber.
Marco: That’s great!
Megan: But the blockage in his intestines hasn’t moved. He may need surgery.
N3: Marco bites his lip.
Megan: Come with me.
N1: Megan leads him outside to an open space covered in shade.
N2: There are a dozen large round tanks filled with seawater.
Megan: Go on. Look inside.
N3: Marco looks in one and sees tiny turtles the size of baseballs swimming around.
Megan: Those are Kemp’s ridleys—the most endangered sea turtle species in the world.
N1: Another tank contains a huge turtle with a missing flipper.
Megan: That’s Hazel. She’s a 200-pound loggerhead.
Marco: What happened to her?
Megan: She was caught in a fishing line. It cut off the circulation in her flipper. We had to amputate it.
Marco: Will she be OK?
Megan: More than OK. We’re releasing her back into the wild this weekend.
Marco: How will she survive without a flipper?
Megan: She learned to adapt. Turtles are amazing creatures.
N2: Marco’s eyes suddenly well up.
Marco: Are Elmar’s friends out there in the water, wondering where he is?
Megan: No. Turtles are solitary animals. They don’t form attachments to others.
N3: Marco glances down at the Polaroids.
Megan: They don’t need each other the way humans do.
The beach, the following week
N1: Marco sits on a woven blanket picking loose threads.
N2: Lita sits in a chair beside him.
Lita: Why so sad, mijo?
Marco: Elmar’s surgery is tomorrow. It’s really risky.
Lita: It will be OK.
Marco: But what if it’s not? He could die.
Lita: It’s hard when someone muy importante goes away.
N3: Lita puts her hand on his back.
Lita: Have you written to Mel?
Marco: No. I keep meaning to.
N1: They look out at the setting sun. Streaks of pale pink, fuchsia [FYOO-shuh], and orange are painted across the sky.
Marco: I don’t know what to say. Nothing is the same without her here.
Lita: You must remember: You can’t have a glorious sunset like this without the clouds.
The Turtle Hospital, the next day
N2: Marco paces around the outdoor tanks.
N3: Finally, Dr. Hayes comes out.
Dr. Hayes: Good news! We got it out. It was a party balloon.
Marco: Why would a turtle eat a balloon?
Dr. Hayes: To him, it looks a lot like a jellyfish.
Marco: He’s going to be OK?
Dr. Hayes: We’ll have to wait and see.
The Turtle Hospital, two months later
N1: Marco tosses cucumber pieces into Elmar’s tank.
N2: Elmar dives down. He has grown strong.
Marco: Isn’t it weird, Elmar? If Mel hadn’t moved, we never would have gone for one last boat ride.
N3: Elmar nibbles on a piece of cucumber.
Marco: And she never would have taken my picture, and I never would have lost my hat, and we never would have found you.
N1: Elmar comes up for a breath of air.
Marco: Maybe everything happens for a reason.
N2: Elmar swims around the tank.
Marco: I’m going to miss you, Elmar.
The beach, two days later
N3: Marco, Lita, and Lolo gather by the water with a small, cheerful crowd.
Marco: Today’s the day!
Lita: I have something for you.
N1: Lita hands Marco a Polaroid camera.
Marco: Gracias, Lita!
N2: The Turtle Hospital van drives up.
Lolo: La tortuga is here.
N3: Megan climbs out.
Megan: Hi, everyone! Elmar is fully healed and ready for release!
Crowd: Yay! Woo! Woo!
N1: Members of the release team bring Elmar out. He is wriggling around.
Marco: Look how feisty he is!
N2: They carry the turtle down to the water.
Crowd: El-mar! El-mar! El-mar!
N3: They set him down, and immediately, his flippers glide through the water.
N1: Marco snaps a picture.
N2: They watch the turtle swim farther and farther away, until at last, he dives under and disappears.
N3: Marco holds the photograph and watches the image of Elmar slowly appear.
Marco (smiling): It’s like magic.
N1: Marco goes and sits down on a blanket. He takes out a notebook and starts writing.
Marco: Dear Mel . . .
This play was originally published in the May/June 2020 issue.
More About the Story
vocabulary, fluency, character, key details, cause and effect, inference, mood, compare and contrast, interpreting text, explanatory writing
Levels of Meaning
The play is about friendship and dealing with change. On another level, it’s about the power that humans have to harm—and help—our fellow creatures and specifically the problem plastic in the ocean creates for marine animals.
The play has eight scenes and is chronological. It contains a good deal of symbolism.
The play includes some challenging words (e.g. maneuver, circulation, amputate), as well as some words in Spanish.
Some prior knowledge of how pollution affects sea animals will be helpful.
1. Preparing to Read
Preview Text Features and Vocabulary (20 minutes)
2. Reading the Play
Close-Reading Questions (25 minutes)
Close-Reading Questions (25 minutes)
3. Skill Building
Featured Skill: Fact vs. Fiction
Before reading the play, make sure students understand the difference between fact and fiction. As you read, have students identify the two in the story by highlighting turtle facts in one color, and fictional descriptions of Elmar in another color.
Have students read another story about a sea animal rescue: “How to Save Two Dolphins,” the nonfiction from the November/ December 2015 issue of Storyworks. Compare and contrast that article with the play and discuss the differences in the texts’ genres.
While Elmar the turtle is the main subject of this play, he doesn’t have any speaking lines. Have students practice expressing thoughts and feelings by writing simple lines for Elmar in each scene, in which he says what he’s thinking or feeling.
Have students use our Research Kit to explore additional ways that human activity threatens sea turtles. They can then make posters that inform others about these threats and what humans can do to save sea turtles.