Reviews for Turtle in Paradise

Booklist Reviews 2010 April #2
*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Turtle is not one to suffer fools gladly. And she runs into a lot of fools, especially the no-goods her starry-eyed mother meets. So it's a tough little Turtle who arrives in Key West in June of 1935. She's been sent to Florida to stay with relatives because her mother's latest housekeeping job doesn't allow children. Unfortunately, Mama has neglected to tell Aunt Minnie she's coming, and Turtle gets the stink eye from cousins with monikers like Buddy and Beans. As Turtle soon learns, everything is different in Key West, from the fruit hanging on trees to the scorpions in nightgowns to the ways kids earn money. She can't be part of her cousins' Diaper Gang (no girls allowed), which takes care of fussy babies, but when she finds a treasure map, she hopes she'll be on Easy Street like Little Orphan Annie. Holm uses family stories as the basis for this tale, part romp, part steely-eyed look at the Depression era. Reminiscent of Addie in the movie Paper Moon, Turtle is just the right mixture of knowingness and hope; the plot is a hilarious blend of family dramas seasoned with a dollop of adventure. The many references to 1930s entertainments (Terry and the Pirates, Shirley Temple) will mostly go over kids' heads, but they'll get how much comics and movies meant to a population desperate for smiles. An author's note (with photos) shows Holm's family close-up. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
It's 1935, and narrator Turtle is sent to live in Key West. With her stoic nature and quick wits, she's able to fit in with her boy cousins. Turtle's voice is tart and world-weary. Though her narrative is peppered with references from the time, modern-day readers will have no trouble relating, and the fast-moving plot will keep them interested to the end. Reading list, websites. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #3
Narrator Turtle's voice is tart and world-weary, and she is under no illusions about her own kind, declaring, "Kids are rotten." It's 1935, and when her housekeeper mother's new job doesn't allow children, she is sent to live with her aunt in Key West, where everyone goes without shoes and is called by a nickname like Pork Chop or Slow Poke. With her stoic nature and her quick wits, Turtle is able to fit in with her boy cousins and their friends (though they won't let her help with their Diaper Gang babysitting business), and she even manages to outmaneuver the elderly woman she is sent to feed who keeps knocking her food to the floor. The episodic novel includes details, events, and figures from history (including those from Holm's own family), and Turtle's narrative is peppered with references from the time, as she compares herself to Little Orphan Annie and gladly avoids going to a Shirley Temple movie. Modern-day readers will have no trouble relating to Turtle, though, and the fast-moving plot will keep them interested to the end. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 April #2
Eleven-year-old Turtle falls in with the Diaper Gang--her boy cousins Beans, Kermit and Buddy and their friends Ira and Pork Chop--when she is packed off to stay in her mother's hometown of Key West because her housekeeper mother has a new job with a woman who doesn't like kids. It's 1935, and the enterprising boys offer baby care to exhausted mothers in exchange for candy because no one has any money to spare. Glimpses of Southern decay and charm add to the sense of otherness that Turtle finds in the heat, the occasional scorpion, the windfall fruit and the hint of Bahamian and Cuban roots. Her encounters with the cantankerous invalid grandmother she never knew and with Slow Poke, a sponge fisherman whose gray eyes match her own, hint at the importance of this homecoming. Turtle's discovery of the charms of family is as valuable as the pirate treasure the children weather a hurricane to find. Holm's voice for Turtle is winning and authentic--that of a practical, clear-eyed observer--and her nimble way with dialogue creates laugh-out-loud moments. Sweet, funny and superb. (Historical fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 May #1

Turtle, the witty 11-year-old narrator of this standout historical novel, is a straight shooter: "Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten." When her romantic and unrealistic mother, who's always falling in and out of love, gets a housekeeping job that won't allow children, she sends Turtle to her estranged family in Depression-era Key West. Though her mother hails Key West as paradise, Turtle initially think it's a dump ("Truth is, the place looks like a broken chair that's been left out in the sun to rot"). Two-time Newbery Honor author Holm again crafts a winning heroine who, despite her hardened exterior, gradually warms to her eccentric family members, including her unruly cousins and waspish grandmother (who Turtle thought was dead). Infused with period pop culture references, a strong sense of place, and the unique traditions and culture of Key West natives (aka "Conchs"), this humorous adventure effectively portrays Turtle as caught between her mother's Hollywood-inspired dreams and the very real family and geography that offer a different kind of paradise. Ages 8-12. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 April

Gr 3-5--In 1935, jobs are hard to come by, and Turtle's mother is lucky to find work as a live-in housekeeper. When she learns that her employer can't stand children, she sends her 11-year-old daughter from New Jersey to Key West to live with relatives. Turtle discovers a startlingly different way of life amid boisterous cousins, Nana Philly, and buried treasure. This richly detailed novel was inspired by Holm's great-grandmother's stories. Readers who enjoy melodic, humorous tales of the past won't want to miss it.--Stephanie Malosh, Vernon Area Public Library, Lincolnshire, IL

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