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Children’s book inspired by Botanic Garden tortoise wins award

ENCINITAS — A story inspired by the true story of the San Diego Botanic Garden’s 500-pound Galapagos tortoise recently won a major children’s book award.

“Too Big to Lose” garnered author Leslie Duval — wife of Botanic Garden CEO Julian Duval — a bronze medal in the animal/pets category of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Contest.

According to a news release, the book, “recounts the love, loss and serendipitous reunion of Julian Duval with his beloved Sam the Tortoise, proving that some friendships are just ‘too big to lose.’”

“It is truly an honor to win this award and it is meaningful to me that it is in the Animal/Pets category,” Leslie Duval said. “My pets have always been among my closest friends, giving me purpose and teaching me to respect and have compassion for other species. When I first met Sam, looked into his eyes, and became part of his life, my small corner of this great big world became a better place and I hoped to share that feeling with others.”

The Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Contest began 10 years ago and was founded on the notion that childhood literacy and lifelong reading are vital to help children thrive in a rapidly changing world.

"Too Big To Lose," is based on a true story of a Galapagos tortoise. Courtesy image
“Too Big To Lose,” is based on a true story of a Galapagos tortoise. Courtesy image


The Moonbeam Awards recognize the year’s best children’s books and are chosen by judging panels of book reviewers, librarians, teachers and students.

“Too Big to Lose” includes oil paintings by Ruth Todd Evans, a San Diego-based artist and author/illustrator of “The Panda Who Would Not Eat,” and also includes letters to Sam written by Therese Duval, Julian’s sister to whom Sam was given to as a gift on her 7th birthday. The book also includes photos of Sam in his home at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

“Taking care of a pet is a big responsibility. This story is about one of the world’s most inappropriate pets, a Galapagos tortoise,” Julian Duval said. “I was young, loved reptiles and was like a kid in a candy store when I bought Sam. We are all very happy that our friendship has come full-circle.”

For more information on Sam, “Too Big To Lose” or to schedule a private reading/book signing with the author, contact Leslie Duval at, or visit the tortoise at a website dedicated to him,

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Children’s book inspired by Botanic Garden tortoise wins award – Coast News | APG Editorial October 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm

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Tim October 24, 2016 at 8:43 pm

They really should remove the name “botanical garden” from the title. The place is no longer a real botanic garden. It now appears to be more of a children’s playground-petting zoo. It’s a shame to see how the place has diminished as an institution of serious botanic/horticultural merit.

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