Turtle in Paradise
written by Jennifer L. Holm
published by Random House in 2010
Winner of the Golden Kite Book Award and
2010- Newbery Honor Book
Turtle in Paradise- is a middle school historical fiction novel following a summer of adventure in Key West, Florida during the 1930’s.
I enjoyed this book because of it’s immersive detail- there were many elements which anchored the novel clearly in the unique landscape of Southern Florida life – it was possible to imagine living on the quaint seaside town with it’s stormy and warm weather. There were also features particular to popular culture which the author shared which added to the unique period atmosphere – such as
The main character- a young girl- Turtle, endures a difficult childhood, as she is part of a single parent family. Her mother supports her as best she can but must work as a housekeeper. Turtle must go live with her Aunt and her family in the Florida Keys. Life their is different for her. She must adapt and come to terms with her mother’s inadequacies.
Folks have always told me that I look like Mama. My hair’s brown, same as hers, but it’s cut short in a bob with bangs, like a soup bowl turned upside down. Mama keeps her long as a good dream, because that’s the way Archie likes it. Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person’e 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.
One of the endearing parts of this book was the enterprising spirit the local children had. They worked together to form a group called the “Diaper Gang” – together they ran a small business, babysitting local children. Their camaraderie was encouraging. During the difficult times of the depression era- communities needed to work hard to make ends meet. Jennifer Holm- creates a realistic vision about what childhood and life during these times would be like-
Lots of folks go to be hungry these days. I’ve heard of men fighting over scraps in garbage cans and about that lady who taught her kids to steal milk. Because Mama works in rich folks’ homes, we’ve had it better than most. But after looking at what Aunt Minnie sets in front of me for breakfast. I start thinking that going hungry might not be that bad after all.
This book is heartwarming. It is also exciting and has a great pirate adventure to add local flavour. This is a very likeable summer read and appropriate for children age 8 and above.