Activity for ‘Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters’

Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters

by Margaret Olivia Wolfson

This is an ancient myth from the island of Kadavu in Fiji. Beautifully written and illustrated in water colours, it tells the story of a princess and her daughter, Rani, who spend their days fishing  and day dreaming of being beautiful sea turtles. When two men appear in a boat one day and kidnap them, the princess and Rani call out to the sea god through their song.  Hearing their call, the sea god magically turns them into sea turtles, so they can escape back to their own island. This myth highlights the ancient tradition of using song to communicate with ancestral spirits and the forces of nature. It also demonstrates the strong bond between a mother and daughter. This book was nominated for the collection because it is beautifully illustrated and captures the relationship between mother and daughters, and because it is an important legend in Pacific culture.


Curriculum Level 1 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
  • managing self


 The watercolour illustrations by Karla Sachi show stunning ocean scenes, which could be used as inspiration for children’s own ocean artwork.

1. Enjoy reading the story together.

2. After reading, look again through the illustrations. Discuss how Sachi has blended soft watercolours to create water. Talk about the colours she has used – soft greens and blues, and purples sometimes too.

3. Show children how they can use different dye colours to create a similar effect. Allow time for children to experiment and create ocean scenes using the dyes.

4. Return to the story, and look again at the illustrations which show turtle images.

Talk about the importance of the turtle in this story – they are quite magical, and are still considered to be very special, magical creatures on the Fijian Island of Kadavu.

5. Show children how to sketch an outline of a turtle.

Begin with the shell, and add arms, legs, head and tail. Draw patterns on the shell – these could be realistic, or children could create their own fantastical designs for the “magical” turtles shell.

Use bright coloured pastels to colour in the turtle. Then cut it out, and glue onto the children’s dyed ocean pictures.


  • bright oil pastels
  • pencils for sketching
  • lots of scrap paper, as well as good quality paper for final product
  • brushes
  • dye – blue, green and purple

Curriculum Links

The ArtsVisual Art

  • share ideas about how and why their own and others’ works are made, and their purpose, value and context (Level 1)
  • explore a variety of materials and tools and discover elements and selected principles (Level 1)
  • investigate visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation and imagination (Level 1)
  • share the ideas, feelings, and stories communicated by their own and others’ objects and images (Level 1)

Other Ideas

  • Talking and writing about our mothers or fathers (English)
  • Research projects about sea turtles, or other ocean creatures such as dolphins, are also a feature of this story (Science)
  • Illustrate a particular part of the story (Visual Art)
  • Retell the story through writing or drama (English/ Drama)