The Secret Tortoise of Sleepy Hollow SAGA 1

Written by Noreen Wise



Follow the Secret Tortoise blog and become an insider on many of history’s unsolved mysteries, and the ghosts who roam the earth, trying to impart the secrets they took to their graves on eager minds who are open to the possibilities. Be prepared to get spooked every Friday when you listen to the Secret Tortoise of Sleepy Hollow Spooky Stories weekly Podcast!

Read more about the Secret Tortoise series

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb
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Sleepy Hollow, New York very well might be the most haunted grounds in America. In fact, who knows what hidden mysteries simmer beneath the surface?

Five friends make a blood oath to take the secrets they dig up to the grave.

Welcome to Riverrun Academy, a very ordinary Jr Sr high school, steeped in history, perched high above the Hudson River 25 miles north of Manhattan. It’s here where a small group of students hatch a plan connected to a mysterious lost note they stumble upon that was written by a Founding Father and, inspired by the cryptic message, make a secret pact to uncover the buried secrets of the past.


Little did they know their pact would have far-reaching implications on their lives and the world around them.

Follow the story of the Secret Tortoise as our group of protagonists starts small and builds their influence until they wield power and authority throughout Riverrun and even outside its age-old walls.

In this series, characters will grow through their decisions as both individuals and as a part of the secret society.


The Secret Tortoise books touch on more than just the school’s power structure – such as sports, music, student government, and performance arts. The real focus is on the political workings of Riverrun and the Machiavellian schemes of the major characters. Allegiances will take shape and fall apart, rivalries will form and burn intensely, and old enemies will become new friends.

The Secret Tortoise is for readers both young and old alike.

The political schemes and maneuverings are reminiscent of other shows currently streaming on popular sites. But what the Secret Tortoise books really bring are unique characters who have stories to tell that anyone can relate to. So join Marco, Bennett, Kaleigh, Isabella, Joaquin and others on their epic journey that will teach them more about life than their schoolwork ever could.


There’s something for everybody in this fast-paced saga: history, mystery, and good old-fashioned ghost stories. Young people will enjoy this multidimensional story about five students working together to create positive change as they navigate the turbulent waters of high school. Spy systems, symbolism, and the art of war are interwoven with an active concern for the environment and the covert world of plants. Current issues are front and center as the young protagonists collaborate in a secret society to face challenges with integrity and grit. Respected historical figures provide insight as the characters solve problems and develop new skills.

Readers will appreciate the authentic language and believable characters while learning about Thomas Jefferson, the scientific method and the natural world. The high-level vocabulary and natural connections to history, math, and science make this series a useful educational resource. Students will engage in higher level skills such as inferential thinking, synthesizing, and applying knowledge as they try to solve mysteries. The themes of responsibility, resourcefulness, and resilience offer a hopeful perspective of how life in school, and the world, can be. 

~ Catherine Zacuto, M.A.Ed


Marco, Bennett, Kaleigh, Isabella, Joaquin all attend Riverrun Academy, a seemingly ordinary secondary school in upstate New York. With a secret society, blood oaths, and cryptic messages, this is no ordinary teen drama. Each member of this group of closely connected kids has their own unique role in unwinding the twists and turns of this adventure.

The characters are all different and fit together with that oh so special Breakfast Club bond. All five of the main characters are well rounded and fleshed out. While working together to put together the pieces of this history-laden mystery, they are each simultaneously dealing with their own set of real-world issues.   

The author’s love of history and abundance of knowledge shines through the text. It acts as a guide for both the characters and the reader. The novel itself is part of a greater series, and it reads like episodes in a television show. If you have a 10-15-year-old who loved Nickelodeon’s, Hunter Street, or the Netflix Original, Greenhouse Academy, then this YA novel is perfect for them!  

~ Sarah Walsh,
Author of The Ways of After and former teacher



Meet Marco Perez, Illuminati-obsessed teenager about to begin the school year at Riverrun Academy, 25 miles north of Manhattan along the historic Hudson River. He convinces four other classmates – Bennet, Isabella, Joaquin, and Kaleigh – to create a pact to uncover the buried secrets believed to be the mysterious, paranormal force haunting Sleepy Hollow, NY and help one another reach new heights in the face of a fierce adversary. Together, they represent five different cliques at Riverrun: student government, band, performance arts, men’s sports and women’s sports. As the year gets started, this nascent secret society, the Secret Tortoise, sets its plans in motion to take control of each sector and create as much influence as possible.



With each of the Secret Tortoise’s members wrapped up in their challenging personal conflicts, they begin to realize how much they can rely on each other. Marco struggles to launch his campaign for class treasurer with the help of his resourceful best friend. Bennet faces a tough dilemma about his lofty personal music goals that are pulling him in one direction, while a favorite teacher and group of peers are pulling him in another. Kaleigh is gripped by the chilling daily confrontations of a more powerful rival on the girl’s tennis team. Joaquin must learn from early mistakes, but gets help from an unlikely ally. Isabella gears up for her first audition ever, but suffers from a streak of bad luck. Antagonist Finn Sanders, becomes the big disrupter, wreaking havoc on everyone’s plans. All the while, the secret society is busy overcoming the many obstacles by developing an intriguing tool that they hope will be instrumental in reaching their collective goals. But who is the mysterious dark force, lurking in the shadows of Sleepy Hollow’s Old Dutch Church burial grounds, that keeps crossing paths with Bennett? What twisted evil plot might he be conjuring up? Will the ancient oak tree, protector of this sacred land, be able to fend off the evil forces?



Stronger together . It’s only the third week of school and already the Secret Tortoises feel their personal battles are far more difficult than their ability to handle them individually. Marco’s class treasurer campaign is significantly undermined by antagonist Finn Sander’s targeted pandemonium. Bennett’s goodwill sacrifice for the school band, results in unexpected negative consequences for his best friend Marco and the Secret Tortoises. Kaleigh’s masterplan to overcome an aggressive rival’s evil plot, is on the verge of being thwarted. Joaquin successfully rebounds to the vicious backlash following his error in the final seconds of the first home game, but he now faces a much more dire emotional crisis. And Isabella is conflicted on multiple levels as she sets off to accomplish an impossible task during her week long audition ordeal. These challenges, along with numerous twists and turns that thread through the cliques, clubs and daily interactions at Riverrun Academy, becomes catalysts that alter the playing field for the school community and the Secret Tortoises… leaving readers on the edge of their seats as they begin to feel that they too attend Riverrun.

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