Saturday, June 25, 2011

Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm - Review

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm is the sweet tale of Turtle, a young girl who is moved unexpectedly to Key West while her mother gets her life together enough for them to be together again. You know this book is going to be good when you read this on the back cover:

Folks have always told me that I look like Momma. Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person's eyes says a lot about them. Mama has soft blue eyes and all she sees are kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.

Summary from Goodreads:

Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

My Thoughts:

I loved this story - it really is a light and quick read, and gets into some interesting parts of Key West history that are not very well known. Like any "beach town" the local culture is rich and any kid would be lucky to grow up amongst it. Turtle is unexpectedly thrown into the mix of that culture and learns quickly how very lucky she is. The time of this novel is during the Great Depression when Key West, Florida has been hit hard. The essence of that time really does come through as the novel unfolds.Not only does Turtle learn about the nuggets of culture connected with this area, she learns a lot about herself, family, and begins to morph into an independent young lady. She earns the respect of not only The Diaper Gang, a group of unruly young boys, but also Nana Philly, her crotchety old grandmother. She learns to stay away from scorpions, call all the town locals by their well-earned nicknames (Slow Poke, Pork Chop, Too Bad), and navigate her way to a pirate's buried treasure.

Like with many of the books I read, I am always taken by the flavors of local culture and this novel is no exception. Turtle is an old soul, and she says some great things throughout this novel:

"Me? I think life is more like a cartoon written by Mr. Disney - The Three Little Pigs. Some big bad wolf is always trying to blow your house down."

"What's it with folks always talking about where they're from? You could grow up in a muddy ditch, but it's you're muddy ditch, then it's gotta be the swellest muddy ditch ever."

"He gives me a stern look...'You in the habit of giving grown folks advice young lady?' 'Sure,' I say, 'You're the ones who need it the most.'"

"Now we're just all standing around, staring at the pile of dirty coins. You'd think when a dream comes true you'd scream until your heart gives out, but the reality is you just turn dumb from the wonder of it all."

"Maybe the real treasure has been right here on Curry Lane all the time - people who love Mama and me...a real home."

Another great part of this book was the Author's Notes where she describes the inspiration for the story (her Conch great-grandmother) and how she weaves the flavors and neat parts of the local area into her me, this information is almost as good as the story itself.


  1. Hi, I found you through book blogs and I'm your newest follower. I love the style of your blog :)


  2. Hi, new follower! Nice looking blog here :) I enjoyed this review-- I live in FL and Key West is a special place to visit.
    Rae, Best O' Books