Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just What is Paradise?

It is 1935, and eleven year-old Turtle’s only parent, her mama, has found a live-in housekeeping job that doesn’t allow children. Luckily, Turtle is strong and doesn’t flinch when her mama tells her she is sending her to go and live with an aunt she has never met down in Florida. Turtle is tough and doesn’t cry; she has been let down too many times before by the men who come courting her mama to let things upset her. She does dream of a “Daddy Warbucks” coming along and changing her life like Little Orphan Annie, but she doesn’t think she will get her Hollywood ending. After the long drive to Florida and the ferry ride to Key West, she and her cat are ready for some comforts and a good meal. Unfortunately, when Turtle finds Curry Lane, the address her mom gave her, the house looks tiny and worn. The snotty boy sitting on the front steps doesn’t make things any easier. Then, her aunt is so shocked to see Turtle standing there that it is clear that her mama’s letter explaining everything hasn’t arrived yet. After a rough start, Turtle begins to settle into Curry Lane. Florida sure is a strange place and she can’t get over walking barefoot, the strange names for everything, and the intense heat. She learns the ways of her ancestors and hangs out with her three male cousins and their friends, who are part of The Diaper Gang. They won’t let Turtle join because she is a girl, but they let her go with them when they walk their wagon taking care of cranky babies. Still, Turtle is determined to earn some money so that she can see her mama sooner. Will she find a job or a way to make money? What will happen when she meets her long lost grandma who hates children? Is there any way that Turtle will get to see her mama again? Is there a Hollywood ending in her future? You will definitely root for Turtle all the way and will be captivated by the twists and turns of her life.

I would recommend Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in grades three and up. I was lucky enough to listen to the audio of this wonderful book narrated by Becca Battoe. She did an excellent job capturing Turtle’s spunky, sassy, and strong personality. The variety of voices for the different characters helped the book come alive for me. I loved the references to old movies, actors, and comics from the funny pages. This book reminded me how hard the Great Depression was for people and how brave kids needed to be during that time. I know I would have a difficult time leaving my family to live with relatives that I have never met. I could easily connect to Turtle and enjoyed her personality and amusing comments. She is someone I would like to be friends with because she is so refreshing and says what she thinks. I'll tell you one thing- she is no Shirley Temple! This was a heartwarming story with lessons that ring true for all of us. I only wish I had more time with Turtle and her fascinating family.

Has anyone else read Turtle in Paradise? Or have you read another book by Jennifer L. Holm?

Happy Reading!
~ L

30 comments:

  1. Great review! This sounds like a book I would like to read and sounds perfect for your family theme this week. How people got by in the depression is something I am interested in. I remember my mom talking about it and how it impacted her family growing up.

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    1. Hi Alex- Thanks! I find the Depression amazing, too. Life was so hard and reading about that time period is inspiring to overcome challenges today. ~L

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  2. I haven't read anything by Jennifer Holm but I do want to read this!

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    1. Barbara- This was my first book by her, but I look forard to reading others. Happy reading! ~L

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  3. This book sounds wonderful...I am really starting to love historical fiction!

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    1. Patty- It is wonderful! I enjoy HF more with each book I read. :) ~L

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  4. Great review! I've added this book on my TBR list!

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    1. Donna- Thanks! I can't wait to hear what you think of this one. :) ~L

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  5. I love historical books and I am always fascinated by this era as it shaped my grandparents generation. I would love to read this book!

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    1. Heidi- If you love HF book and this era- you will enjoy this book. I found myself laughing out loud at some parts. Turtle is funny. Hearing people who lived through the Depression talk about it really helps to see how people changed because of it. Also- I found out the author based parts of the story and the character names on her ancestors. So cool! ~L

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  6. That was such a tough time in history! Sounds like a powerful story with a super character! :)

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    1. Jemi- It was definitely a hard time! This was a fabulous book and Turtle is a character I really loved. She sure does have spirit! ~L

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  7. The kids in my class have to read at least one historical fiction to fulfill their genre requirement - this one sounds perfect. Off to the bookstore...

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    1. Leslie- If your students have to read at least one HF book then I know they will really enjoy this one. It goes very fast and it has the funniest words- like bungy (that made me crack up each time). :) ~L

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  8. Never before heard of this one, but Turtle sounds like an amazing & interesting little girl. Not sure, but I think this book would *tug* at the heartstrings <3

    Ps - Grew up in Fla, two blocks from the beach. In fact, I grew up very near what is called Turtle Mound lol

    I can remember walking barefoot half the time, and the roads underfoot, or even the dunes, being so hot that at first, your feet registered it as *cold*.

    In a way, I think I'd love to read this story just to see how life was portrayed in Fla during the Depression years. If you stop and think about how long ago that was, nearly 80 years, the generation who actually LIVED in that sad era has nearly passed away. My in-laws were adolescents during the depression, and talked about how hungry they were. :(

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    1. M.A.D.- You really must read this book! If you grew up in Florida and spent most of your time barefoot then you will easily relate to Turtle and her cousins. How amazing that you grew up near a place called Turtle Mound. If you read this one- read the author's notes at the end because they give some additional history.

      The Depression was a sad time and reading about it made me realize how good I have it now. Sad to think about your in-laws and others that lived during that time!
      ~L

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  9. This sounds heartwarming and touching. I'm a bit surprised by the age range though. It sounded older to me, what with the mention of mommy's boy-friends. But maybe I'm just behind the times and all that's normal for kids now. (Dang, I am old...)

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    1. Hi Lexa- It really is a great book! Turtle's mom has been a single mom since Turtle was born. Her mom believes in love and has been looking for a guy to be part of their family. Unfortunately, finding a good guy isn't easy for her. So, even though there are boyfriends, they are mostly mentioned in the way that Turtle and her mom haven't gotten their "Hollywood ending" yet. :) ~L

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  10. I haven't heard of this but it reminds me of Bud, Not Buddy meets Sammy Keyes. Very interesting.

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    1. Kelly- You picked two books that could definitely be mixed together to get Turtle in Paradise! :) ~L

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  11. Poor Turtle! She sounds like a strong young lady but really, you shouldn't have to be that strong at that age. Sounds like a wonderful read...thanks for sharing! (oh and no I've not read this author's work previously....so it's good to hear something about it! ^_^)

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    1. GMR- Turtle is super strong and has an outer shell like the animal she is named for. It is sad that she has to be as tough as she is. I really enjoyed this one and think others will like it, too. I look forward to reading more by this author! ~L

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  12. Cute! I never thought this was a children's book. Based on the cover I thought it was YA. Her situation kind of reminds me of the book I'm reading now. It's called A Month of Sundays and this girl's mother goes with her friend to live in Florida and find a job and she sends the girl to her aunt's house until she can pay for her bus fare. It's historical fiction too and I did say it kind of reminded me so it isn't exact :P

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    1. Adriana- It is hard to tell by the cover that this is a MG HF book. I think the cover is pretty- but it doesn't exaclty go with the book. I don't recall Turtle ever finding a starfish (unless it is a metaphor for her- which I don't want to explain and end up giving something away). Based on what you said about A Month of Sundays- they sound similar. I will have to read that one and see what it is like. :) ~L

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  13. I've never heard of this book or its author but it looks like a snazzy read! (my new favorite word)
    I spy a little sticker on the corner of it. Did it win some sort of award?

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    1. Anaavu- Snazzy is a fun word! This is a great book and I believe it won the Newbery Award. I keep thinking about Turtle and some of the funny things she says in the book. :) ~L

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  14. What a sweet story and what a grave little girl. I like the premise of this book. Visiting relatives in other states are often the memories we remember fondly and the humor that makes us laugh over and over.

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    1. Donna- This is a wonderful book. You are right- visiting family in other states definitely stays with you. :) ~L

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    1. Patty- It was so good! I am glad you enjoyed it! ~L

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