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"Old Turtle" returns
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Old Turtle and the Broken Truth is the latest book from Minnesota author Douglas Wood. The book features a wise old turtle who shares her knowledge of tolerance with the world. (Photo courtesy of Scholastic )
Central Minnesota author Douglas Wood's first book, Old Turtle, was a huge success. First published in 1992, the story of a wise old turtle who shares her wisdom on spirituality, peace and ecology won several national awards, and sold more than 800,000 copies. Now 11 years later, there's a new Old Turtle story.

Sartell, Minn. — Author Douglas Wood lives on a little piece of forested land on the Mississippi River north of St. Cloud. He draws inspiration from the tall white pines arching over his family's restored 1931 log cabin.

A love of nature led Wood to write his first book Old Turtle more than a decade ago.

According to Wood, a turtle is the perfect voice to tell the world about how humans and nature are interconnected.

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Image Douglas Wood

"The turtle really is a gentle, benevolent, wise, humble creature. Those are qualities that I think one needs to cultivate to be in tune with the natural world," Wood says. "You have to slow yourself down, you have to park your own ego, and absorb what's really going on. ... I think those are all things that Old Turtle brings to the table."

The first Old Turtle book took him about 30 minutes to write. Wood's new effort, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, took 11 years to complete. In the meantime, he wrote several other books in his cozy office overlooking the Mississippi. Some of the books were for kids, some were for adults.

But during that time, Old Turtle kept crawling along.

"Always in the back of my mind was the thought that sometime there would be another Old Turtle. I collected ideas and I had a file in the cabinet called "Old Turtle Two," and it just took a while for it to simmer and perk along and become a book," Wood says.

Wood's new book starts off with something falling from the sky.

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Image A page from Old Turtle and the Broken Truth

"Into this far and lovely land, there fell a truth. It streaked down from the stars, trailing a tail as long as the sky. But as it fell, it broke. One of the pieces blazed off through the night sky, and the other fell to earth in the beautiful land," Wood reads from the book.

After humans find one piece of the truth, which says, "You are loved," they want to keep it to themselves. There's another piece that they don't know about, which says, "And so are they."

In the end, Old Turtle helps a little girl convince the people to combine the two pieces and share the truth.

"This is a book about the nature of truth, partly. What is truth and what does it mean if a truth isn't whole?" says Wood. "There are small and gentle truths around us every day, which is the realization that I came to when I wrote the book."

That's pretty deep stuff for a children's book. But Wood considers it a multi-generational book. He calls it a "literary onion" -- a story with layers.

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Image Barb Lantis

"When a grownup shares it with a child, they may be receiving the message and understanding the messages that I didn't even know where in there -- but at different layers and in different ways, as people grow and mature and have different experiences in life," Wood says.

Literary experts agree with that notion. They say those layers of meaning are responsible for Wood's success.

Barb Lantis is the Children's Services Coordinator at the Great River Regional Library in St. Cloud. Lantis says Old Turtle and the Broken Truth is the kind of book children and adults should read and then discuss.

"I think younger kids read it as a story, to be entertained. And as you grow older, every time you read it you probably get something else," says Lantis. "The first time you read it, it's just a story. Then you discuss it and read it again, and there's more that comes out of his books."

Douglas Wood says he's currently working on about 20 books. Somewhere in his office there's a folder marked "Old Turtle Three." This time he hopes it doesn't take 11 years for the Old Turtle to re-emerge.

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