Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turtle in Paradise

Holm, Jennifer L. 2010. TURTLE IN PARADISE. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375836886 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

This charming Newbery Honor book is inspired by the author’s family stories. Set during the Great Depression, Turtle’s mother takes a housekeeping position for a woman that doesn’t allow children, so Turtle is sent to live with her aunt in Key West, Florida. Sassy and street-smart, Turtle is accustomed to taking care of herself without expecting a “Hollywood ending.” Turtle believes “the color of a person’s eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes, and all she sees is kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.” After a tough transition to life in Key West, Turtle learns how to get along with her rambunctious cousins, softens her hard shell, and even discovers a hidden cache of pirate treasure.

Jennifer Holm expertly infuses her story with local jargon and customs unique to Key West in the 1930s. The colorful dialogue and vivid descriptions allow child readers to easily relate to Turtle’s new life in Florida with her aunt’s family. Even the secondary characters in the Diaper Gang are richly developed. The humorous neighborhood stories will capture children’s attention and the mystery of the missing treasure offers additional excitement to this engaging tale. Readers will hope for a sequel when Turtle and her mother decide to stay in Key West.

Since this novel mentions several popular culture icons from the period, children can research the Great Depression to learn how children entertained themselves in the 1930s. Readers can then compare Turtle’s pastimes to modern children’s recreational activities.

Other historical Newbery Honor books by Jennifer Holm:

By Kimberly C. Kinnaird

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