Eleven year old Turtle knows life isn’t like the movies, and she most certainly is nothing like Shirley Temple. It’s 1935 and only people like Turtle’s mom continue to dream. Turtle’s grown to know the truth, and worries about her mom when she has to leave her for a while. Her mom has a new job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, so Turtle moves in with her aunt and cousins in Key West, Florida.
She’s never met them before and her life is certainly different when surrounded by so many people – especially boys! It’s hot there – and full of family secrets, buried treasure, and innovating babysitting business plans.
Unlike ever before, Turtle finds her new environment opening her up a bit and letting go of her hard shell, which gave her her nickname, for the first time.
Turtle’s life is about to change…
Now, this is a quality fiction middlegrade book! Every once in a while I wonder if I’ve grown out of the genre (I am twenty-four after all!), but then a book like Turtle in Paradise reminds me that middlegrade doesn’t have to be condescending or illogical. It can be captivating, transcendent, and nostalgic.
From the very first paragraph, Turtle in Paradise gives an impression of a tough, opinionated eleven year old in the 30s – it’s an instant connection with readers, no matter your age. Turtle’s first-person narration is colorful, funny, and poignant. Jennifer L. Holm displays tremendous writing skills in this short but remarkable novel!
It was truly excellent to see a book use fast-paced, realistic dialogue to tell a large portion of the story instead of relying on heavy descriptions. And then to have it stocked full of charming, disarmingly cute and hilarious young boy cousins that are like baby whisperers – my, my!
Turtle in Paradise is an extremely easy, smooth read – sweet, lovely, and genuine. This is a slice of life. Very enjoyable. I read it in one sitting and was delighted every second!
It’s worth reading through the lesser middlegrade novels to find gems like Turtle in Paradise!