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Turtle in Paradise Hardcover – May 11, 2010

188 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*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. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 610L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375836888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375836886
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer L. Holm is the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children's author of THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH. She is the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE.

Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series -- the Eisner Award-winning Babymouse series which has more than 2.3 million books in print and the bestselling Squish series. SQUISH is being developed into a television series with Cottonwood Media and Gulli. Jenni and Matt's newest graphic novel, SUNNY SIDE UP, was published by Graphix/Scholastic in August.

For more information, visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 107 people found the following review helpful By samfl on July 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book was ok, possibly almost good. But certainly NOT for 8 and up or the 3rd-5th grade group it's being marketed to, which is why I rated it so low. I read this with my 9-year-old and was not really impressed. Although it does do a nice job of showing what Key West must have been like all those years ago, there are pieces of the plot I would have rather not discussed with my daughter. Spoiler alert but good warning for parents - included in this book is the fact that the main character discovers that her mother got pregnant outside of marriage and then ran off when the guy wouldn't marry her right away, thereby becoming a disgrace to her mother for being an single mom. Can we just let children stay children until at least TEN! Kids that age don't fully understand where babies come from - but if you read this book, be ready to explain it! All through the book, you get to read all about how the mom is constantly dating this guy and that and how they all try and buy the kid's love along the way. Then at the end, she actually gets married - only to have that guy steal all their money and run off to Cuba without them! What a great bedtime story, right? Don't worry honey, our dad isn't going to steal all our money and run away. Now go to sleep......

If this book were marketed to 5th or 6th grade and up, it would be more appropriate. The conversations between the characters are often funny. If it were marketed for 11 and up, I'd probably have given it 3 or 4 stars.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on May 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
TURTLE IN PARADISE is a lively, Depression-era yarn about an eleven-year-old girl with a tough exterior named Turtle. She has never known her father. She has been forced to move again and again as her mother has struggled in a buyer's market to make the best of a series of horror-show, live-in housecleaning positions around the mid-Atlantic region. Mom's latest employer -- this one in New Jersey -- can't stand children, and the times call for desperate measures, so Mom's latest boyfriend, Archie, has contracted with an acquaintance who is traveling in the right direction to deliver Turtle and her cat Smokey to Key West, Florida. Mom hails from Key West and Turtle heads down there to squeeze into a small house with her maternal aunt and three boy cousins, none of whom she has ever previously met (and without the letter Mom mailed to Aunt Minerva having ever arrived).

It seems like Turtle is related to half the neighborhood and, being that she is the spitting-image of her mom, every grownup she meets immediately wants to know whether she is related to Sadiebelle Gifford. The question we immediately ask ourselves is whether one of the guys in town can be the father Turtle has never met.

We come to find out that the grandmother who Mom told Turtle was dead is actually very much alive, and quite an ornery character, although she is now incapacitated by a stroke. And then, thanks to Smokey, Turtle finds a long-lost treasure map...

What I really enjoyed is that Jenni Holm --who was inspired by old family stories about Key West -- keeps throwing you off balance by permitting you to discover clues. And so you think you've figured something out -- and you have -- but what you thought was the big mystery is only another step along the path.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Capehart VINE VOICE on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Eleven year old Turtle doesn't like kids 'cause they are nothing like Shirley Temple (and Turtle doesn't like HER either). See, Turtle's had some bad experiences with the children of her mother's various employers. No kid is nice to the housekeeper's kid.

When Mama's new employer Mrs. Budnick shares Turtle's low opinion of children and refuses to let Turtle stay in her house, Mama sends Turtle to Key West and the home of an aunt and far too many boy cousins none of whom Turtle's ever met. New environment, new culture, new family, new rules.

Her eleven-year-old cousin Beans (everyone has a nickname, so Turtle fits in THAT way) runs the Diaper Gang, a babysitting service with a secret weapon against diaper rash & they have a rule: no girls allowed. Turtle usually tags along anyway because despite the colorful locals (including a very familiar mustached author) there isn't much to do on the island.

Her mother may have Hollywood dreams, but turtle is down to earth. She views life as more like the story of the three little pigs: you just set up a new house & a big bad wolf comes to blow it down (Mama's not the best at picking men)...but Archie could be different...but the two of them are up in New Jersey--while Turtle's stuck in the mud and the heat.

Holm again mixes her family's history with a well told story (much like she did in "Penny from Heaven" in 2006). This one has all the local color you could want and rum runners and pirates and a heroine who's just the right mix of snarky and charming. A winner for fans of Holm or historical fiction.

(And now full disclosure: I read most of this while walking on my treadmill right next to a framed manuscript page from "Penny from Heaven.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Erin VINE VOICE on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Depression-era Florida Keys setting and the believable, thoroughly likeable main character make for an enjoyable read. The problem is that the author spends the first two-thirds of the book developing these two elements of her story with a gently-paced, day-to-day style plot, then throws in a whirlwind of major plot twists in the last 50 pages. It felt a little off-balance. I liked the setting and characters so much that I wanted these new plot developments to be explored a little more fully, but it almost felt like the author had reached her page limit so she just had to wrap it up. So it's not a perfect book, but it's not a waste of time, either. Read it and see what you think!
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