Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review TURTLE IN PARADISE by Jennifer L. Holm

It's June and you need a summer read. Right? 

Of course right, And I think we've found just the one.  I'm pleased to post a book review by Augusta Scattergood.  (Thank goodness someone is posting on my blog since I have been otherwise occupied.)

Augusta Scattergood has worked as a reference librarian and an elementary school librarian. A book reviewer for The Christian Science Monitor, Delta Magazine, and other publications, she also writes for children, her favorite genre being middle-grade fiction.

She blogs about reading, writing and especially writing for kids at

Turtle in Paradise
Jennifer L. Holm
(Random House, May 25, 2010)

In 1935, much of the country was deep in the Great Depression. Often kids were passed around the family when hardship struck or a family detoured to look for a better life. Which is exactly what 11-year-old Turtle Curry faces in Jennifer Holm’s new middle grade novel.

Although Turtle really isn’t hungry or unhappy living frugally with her Hollywood-struck mother, her mother’s employer does not appreciate a child underfoot. So off Turtle goes to Key West, where a whole passel of relatives await her. Turtle’s mother looks on life as a bowl of cherries. The young girl, however, thinks “life’s more like that cartoon by Mr. Disney—The Three Little Pigs. Some big bad wolf’s always trying to blow down your house.”

Key West, as it turns out, is a place Turtle never could have imagined. A place where dinner is plucked from the trees and everybody knows who you are. Where the local bad boys, who aren’t really that bad after all, have named themselves The Diaper Gang and turned into babysitters for hire.

The young girl discovers a lot living with her aunt in Key West. Whether it pertains to her Kewpie paper dolls or her mother’s reason for leaving Key West in the first place, she learns that grown-ups lie, just like kids. “They leave things out; they don’t give you the whole story.”

Turtle is a kid who pretty much takes charge of herself, even when life’s lessons pile up. She’s an appealing, resourceful, funny youngster. In fact, all of Holm’s characters are written to perfection. The setting and the time period—the Great Depression— are not often depicted in books for kids, but characters and setting together make a great story.

Florida’s most deadly hurricane makes an appearance in the novel. The Diaper Gang has plenty of adventures. There’s a sweet, loving relationship developing between grandparent and granddaughter. All in all, this is a terrific story from the author of Our Only May Amelia.

An author’s note, a resource list and three websites appended at the end lend the novel authenticity. The note includes black and white photos of Shirley Temple , the Little Orphan Annie (who Turtle thinks is as lucky as it gets)comic strip, as well as local scenes of Key West during the 1930s. For young readers unfamiliar with the Great Depression, these add to the history.

Turtle in Paradise is historical fiction with just the right amount of history and an abundance of terrific writing.


  1. Ha! I went to put this on my to-read list and found it already there. Obviously, I need to get hold of a copy soon. :)

  2. Becky, obviously you need to read this book. And I do too. It looks terrific and I loved Penny From Heaven by Jennifer.

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  4. It also has great cover art and an intriguing title. It's got the pick up factor going on.

  5. Yes, I agree about the pick-up factor. And Key West and 1930s - oh so intriguing. One of those books I want to actually buy.

  6. Yes, I also love that cover. The book was a lot of fun to read and write about!