Jennifer L. Holm: Turtle in Paradise (Random House 2010)
In June 1935, Turtle has to move in to her aunt, whom she has never met, because her mother got a job as a housekeeper in a place where they don’t like children. Turtle therefore travels to Key West, Florida, to live with a family she has never seen for who knows how long. Compared to her dreamer mother, who always waits for the true love and the happy ending, Turtle is very much on the ground with both of her feet. She knows people and doesn’t think children are any different from adults. So far, she has only had bad experiences with both age groups. But now she has to learn to live with her three cousins, who are very lively boys. Will their story have a happy ending?
The book is set during the Great Depression, when there were hardly any jobs and hardly any money, but Florida was a little better off than most states, with food in the water and in the trees, everywhere. It was such a lovely story that I loved reading it! This is the second book by this author that has become my favorite, so I will definitely have to read the others. Turtle’s story shows that we can’t always surround ourselves with armor, sometimes we have to open up to those who are really close to us. The story was inspired by the author’s Conch (a person living in the islands of the Florida Keys) great-grandmother, who emigrated with her family from the Bahamas to Key West in the late 1800s and from whom she heard a lot about sugar apple ice cream, Spanish lime and the importance of shaking out our shoes before putting them on to avoid scorpions. During the Great Depression, it was not unusual for parents to find work elsewhere and for children to be raised by relatives. On the other hand, people were entertained by radio plays like Little Orphan Annie (Turtle also likes her) or movie stars like the young Shirley Temple (whom she hates). Turtle even meets a great writer, who is best known to the world for his hunts in Africa and his fight with a big fish.
The writer has a companion to this story, which is a prequel starring Beans. Jennifer L. Holm is a major figure in contemporary children’s literature who recommends her books to the young readers and the young at heart.