Saving Peg Leg
by Michael Fitzpatrick
Ideopage Press Solutions

"As she read the name, Saint Francis of Assisi, quietly to herself, a ray of sunlight peered through the colored glass."

Jane Spencer is a special child who has chosen to take care of an unusual animal. A newborn wood turtle winds up in Jane’s yard. Everyone in the Spencer household is interested in nature and its wonders, and the turtle, with its torn front foot, becomes Jane’s particular concern. She calls him Peg Leg and seeks help for him from the local vet. Her compassion for the turtle is so extraordinary that one morning at Mass she feels God’s blessing as she thinks about Peg Leg. Her sympathy is communicated to the vet, who subsequently performs surgery to give the turtle a prosthetic foot. Jane marks Peg Leg’s shell with her contact information. After he disappears in a rainstorm, she finally gets a call from someone who has found him. But should she take him back, or leave him in his new, nurturing environment?

This book, by debut writer Fitzpatrick, is based on interviews with the real-life Jane, containing a great deal of factual material about the wood turtle species, its habitats and habits, and the reasons for its place on the endangered species list. It is also a look at religious devotion and the rewards that such devotion can bring. It is written plainly but engagingly, showing an ear for dialogue and sensitivity to a young girl’s feelings and inner contemplation. It contains a large number of peripheral characters, some of which could have been combined to reduce the complexity of the story. However, Fitzgerald opted for a more literal approach to the details of the story. The book targets younger readers, though older ones might enjoy it for the many lessons presented. It could be the center of a library or other study group, offering many avenues for discussion and further investigation.

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