Holm, Jennifer L. 2010. TURTLE IN PARADISE. New York: Random House. ISBN: 0375836888
During the Great Depression, Turtle's mother takes a job as a housekeeper for a family that didn't like children. Turtle and her cat, Smokey, were sent off to live in Florida with her aunt and cousins who don't even know they were coming. Key West is very different from her previous home, but she soon adjusts to the her new life. She is taken on many adventures with her cousins who are in a "Diaper Gang." This all boy "gang" takes care of babies in exchange for candy. Turtle ends up unexpectedly meeting her grandmother who she had been told was dead. While trying to form a relationship with her, she finds a treasure map in her house. This leads Turtle and her cousins on an adventure that she won't soon forget to find buried pirate treasure. When her mom comes to get Turtle from her aunt's house, Turtle starts to believe that a Hollywood ending is possible for her family, but ends up learning a hard lesson about life. Through this lesson comes the greatest realization that a loving family is better than a Hollywood ending.
TURTLE IN PARADISE is a historical fiction book that is narrated by the main character, Turtle. Because the story is told in first person, it gives the reader a glimpse into how an 11 year old might think, feel, and act during the Great Depression era. Jennifer Holm has created characters that are believable and true to the time period. Although this story takes place in the 1930s, the personality traits of the characters make them easy to relate to, even today. Through the details presented about the characters and their relationships with each other, the reader can tell that the community of Key West is close knit and they are always looking out for each other. The theme of family is developed throughout the book.
The story takes place during the Depression in Key West, Florida where life is hard for adults, but children don't seem to be as affected by the hard times. There is very limited money which is apparent in the story because the adults work very hard for little money and the kids trade their services for candy. The "Diaper Gang" is made up of all boys; Beans, Pork Chop, Kermit, and Buddy. These nicknames that the characters go by are in line with the Key West culture of nicknaming everyone. Holms does a great job of including details about the various foods the characters eat which are consistent with popular foods found in Key West. Accurate details like these help to create the authentic feel of the story. Historical details that are included such as Little Orphan Annie, Shirley Temple, and the Labor Day Hurricane all remind the reader of the time period that the story takes place.
An author's note is included at the conclusion of the book which gives the reader an idea of the amount of research that went into this book. It includes details which help the reader connect the events of the story to the actual historical events that took place. The photographs included in the author's note provide authenticity as well as a personal connection to the story. Holms also includes a list of resources that were used in the writing of TURTLE IN PARADISE and a list of websites to further your knowledge of Key West history.
AWARDS & REVIEW EXCERPTS
Newbery Honor (2011)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2012)
Texas Bluebonnet Nominee 2011-2012
"Holm uses family stories as the basis for this tale, part romp, part steely-eyed look at the Depression era. " Booklist starred (April 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 16))
"It's 1935, and narrator Turtle is sent to live in Key West. With her stoic nature and quick wits, she's able to fit in with her boy cousins. Turtle's voice is tart and world-weary. Though her narrative is peppered with references from the time, modern-day readers will have no trouble relating, and the fast-moving plot will keep them interested to the end. Reading list, websites." Horn Book starred (Fall 2010)
"Two-time Newbery Honor author Holm again crafts a winning heroine who, despite her hardened exterior, gradually warms to her eccentric family members, including her unruly cousins and waspish grandmother (who Turtle thought was dead). Infused with period pop culture references, a strong sense of place, and the unique traditions and culture of Key West natives (aka "Conchs"), this humorous adventure effectively portrays Turtle as caught between her mother's Hollywood-inspired dreams and the very real family and geography that offer a different kind of paradise." Publisher's Weekly (May 3, 2010)
- Read while studying The Great Depression and have students find details in the story that align with that time period.
-Walking tour of Key West that shows different places referenced in the story - http://www.helpreaderslovereading.com/2011/03/turtle-in-paradise-by-jennifer-l-holm.html
-Pair with other books set during the Great Depression:-FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932-1939. By: Tonya Bolden ISBN: 9780375852145
-Leo and the Lesser Lion. By: Sandra Forrester. ISBN: 9780375856167
-Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. By: Jerry Stanley. ISBN: 0517587815
-The Wonder of Charlie Anne. By: Kimberly Newton Fusco. ISBN: 9780375861048
-Shirley Temple - "On the Good Ship Lollipop"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLLSqpYyPD8
-Teacher Resource Guide - http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/resource/the-great-depression/