David M. Carroll, . . Houghton Mifflin, $22 (181pp) ISBN 978-0-618-16225-3

Carroll, a naturalist and an artist, discovered turtles when he was eight years old, and in this slight but charming memoir, he tells how these wetland creatures forever changed and directed his life. After his first encounter with a spotted turtle in a woodland pool near his home in a central Pennsylvania housing project, he was obsessed, wading in swamps, marshes, streams and ditches to find turtles no matter where he lived. This infatuation led to a fascination with everything in nature, and he combined this interest with his talent for drawing and painting, attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and embarking on a brief career as an art teacher. Although he was popular with the students, especially the more unconventional ones, he was too exuberant and imaginative to last in that profession, so he and his wife, also an artist, moved to rural New Hampshire, where he could devote himself to nature studies. Carroll has now been observing turtles for 50 years, and although he laments that their habitats are often lost to development, he continues to find them everywhere. In an especially touching final chapter, he tells of following one particular spotted turtle for 18 years and finally succeeding in observing her annual nesting ritual. Unlike his earlier book, The Year of the Turtle , this is not a natural history of turtles but rather a meditation on the author's life as a naturalist and a paean to the intriguing creatures that lured him to that calling. Illus. by the author. (Mar.)