Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I Listened to Last Week

What I Listened to Last Week  . . .

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm; Read by Becca Battoe -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Eleven-year-old Turtle is wise beyond her years - she knows life is not like the pictures (she HATES Shirley Temple) or even like Little Orphan Annie in the Funny Pages. It's the Great Depression and times are tough everywhere, forcing Turtle's Mama to take a job as a housekeeper for a lady who hates kids. That's how Turtle finds herself living in Key West with her Mama's sister Aunt Minnie and Aunt Minnie's brood of wild boys. At first, Beans, Turtle's oldest cousin, resents having her around and Turtle isn't so thrilled to be there either. Smart and sassy, Turtle slowly adjusts to life in Key West where kids go without shoes and everyone has a funny nickname. She tries to break through the crust of a grouchy old lady and is befriended by a sponge fisherman who likes the Funny Pages and hangs out a local cafe where a "writer fella" named Ernest Hemingway also sips coffee. Turtle uses her smarts to get herself a job so she can earn money for the day when she and Mama will be reunited and open their own inn. Mama's new man Archie seems nice enough but Turtle doesn't expect him to stick around. Her dreams only include Turtle and Mama.Then she hits upon the ultimate scheme but she has to include the boys. When it seems like Turtle's dreams are about to come true, she begins to wonder if life really can have a Hollywood ending after all. Jennifer L. Holm has done it again and created another excellent book based on her family's history. The local color of the story is the very best part. Her descriptions of Key West in 1935 are incredibly vivid. The characters are off-beat and unique, especially Turtle. Turtle is a bit hard to like at first. She gets her name because she has a hard outer shell and that makes her a bit prickly and difficult, but when she began to be incorporated into daily life in Key West, I began to like her a lot better. She's tough - she has to be because she's had a rough life- but she has a soft underbelly like her namesake. She's also very down-to-earth in an unchildlike way because of the hard realities she has faced. Her cousins and their friends are a hoot and provide a lot of the comic relief in a novel that has potential to be dark. There are several plot twists in the novel that are surprising. My only dislike is the message of the story is delivered by Turtle's inner monologue and comes across as a bit heavy handed. However, it does fit the character so I'll let it slide. The reader, Becca Battoe, is amazing. She sounds like a sassy, smart-alecky young girl when she reads Turtle but she also does voices for each of the other characters. I could always tell who was speaking just by the voice. My favorites are Pork Chop and Buddy. Those are the two most distinctive. I've loved all of Jennifer L. Holm's books and this one is no exception. I think adults may like this book better than kids because of all the 1930s references and the cameo by Hemingway. This is a book that all ages 10+ can enjoy. It would be a good read-aloud for a classroom because it has a mix of male and female characters and teaches history in an entertaining way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.