Monday, August 29, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Turtle in Paradise

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

What caught my eye first (because I'm so shallow): The title! I mean, who the heck is this Turtle, and what is he/she doing in Paradise? Also, the writer is Jennifer L. Holm, revered in this household as one of the authors (with her brother, Matt) of the Babymouse series. (No, I did not choose the book because this week has been Hurricane Irene week, and there's also a hurricane in this novel...)

Wonderful things about this book: a) The character of Turtle. As the front flap says: "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."
b) The time period. It's 1935 and times are tough. (But, in a strange way, the book has a timeless feel to it.)

c) Setting. Key West, Florida. The residents are called "Conches," and everyone knows everyone else's business.

d) The opening lines: "Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it." Voice, voice, voice.

The story (thanks to Goodreads copywriters):

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.

Verdict: This is another swift read. Both girls and boys would enjoy it--the spunky Turtle has a band of boy cousins who get into continual scrapes, including being stranded on a Key while searching for buried treasure during the afore-mentioned hurricane. Hooray for Jennifer L. Holm!

Other MMGMers:
Please check out my sidebar for reviews by the usual suspects. New to the fold are:

 - Ishta Mercurio makes her MMGM debut with a feature on JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW--with a GIVEAWAY! Go HERE for all the details.
- The awesome Elana Johnson also joins the MMGM fun, featuring JANITORS. Click HERE to see why you need to read it too.
Happy MMGM, folks!!


  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I love her name-Turtle. And the cover is intriguing.

  2. This really is a beautiful story. I'm extremely partial to historical fiction, but you're right, it is written in a timeless fashion. And Holm struck an excellent balance with drawing interest of both boys and girls with a female MC and boy cousins.

  3. Sounds awesome! Way different than what I would have guessed.

  4. This one sounds fantastic. Thanks for the review!

  5. Yeah, I'z gots somethin' to say. This books sounds wonderful. The cover is awesome, the title is awesome, and the name Turtle is way cool! (Besides, I'm from the Keys.) So I gotta love it. Will be purchasing it. Thanks, my friend. :-)

  6. You have TOTALLY sold me on this book, Michael. Great review! And I love the Babymouse series, too. :-)

  7. Oooh, I almost picked this up at the SCBWI Conference because Jennifer won an award there. There were just so many books to choose from, though. I'll make sure this gets on my to-read list. Sounds lovely.

  8. Oh yes, I LOVED this book! Turtle's such a great character, you're right. And that wonderful opening line pulled me in right away.

    Our power just went back on, Michael, and the flood waters have receded so I can get to the post office tomorrow to mail your prize! Just posted Irene aftermath photos on my blog.


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