"Full of Beans" is the story of a boy and his gang, and of triumph over adversity during the Great Depression.
Beans and his buddies are a bunch of barefoot, marble-toting boys in Key West Florida, here to help readers get a glimpse of what life was like in a dying, poverty-stricken town in the 1930s.
Our boy, Beans, is an enterprising young man, doing what he can to help out his family, his friends, and their families during one of the grimmest eras in American history. The story is true to it's time in every aspect: expressions, events, characters, all of it.
Among Beans's many money-making schemes is one that puts the whole town in jeopardy. Beans never confesses to this crime, but he more than makes up for it in his whole-hearted attempt to make things right again. Some might feel that, as this is a story for children, Beans should have 'fessed up, as we would want our children to do. But I love the way Holm chose to resolve the issue instead.
The story is set in real life situations in Key West as experienced by a fictional but realistic boy; how the town rose up from near-extinction to become the Key West we know today. It is rich with history that will be captivating for kids: How house fires were dealt with in those days, what people ate and did for entertainment (bollos and bolitos, for example), child movies stars, leprosy, rum runners, and many other true-to-life examples of the day. Holm gives us some rich supporting historical background at the end of the book. She is the author of three Newbery Honor-Award winning books. In my book, Holm deserves an award for this one as well.
"Full of Beans" gives the topics of family, loyalty, and kindness their due in a very kid-friendly way.
I like books with a strong sense of place and time. It’s easier to anchor the characters and get a sense of what’s really going on. This book delivers. I’ve never been to Key West and I was born years after the Great Depression ended, but Ms. Holm makes us feel so much like we’re there that we can practically smell the garbage piling up and we almost feel the urge to slap at mosquitos.
As the story opens, our narrator and main character, Beans Curry, is starting to feel the desperation. His father has been unemployed for a while, so his mother takes in washing to get by. Beans and his younger brother Kermit spend their days scrounging for cans to bring to Winky for a dime. But then he only gives them a nickel. Well, all grown-ups are lying liars anyway. And now Poppy is leaving for New Jersey to look for work and Nana Philly won’t give his mother the money to buy that sewing machine to make that dress for Mrs. Higgs. So maybe he can be forgiven for running some “errands” for Johnny Cakes. Until one of those errands ends up costing his best friend and his family their home. Maybe kids can be lying liars too.
Into the midst of this desperation come the “New Dealers”, government workers sent to fix up the town under President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Soon the garbage is getting collected, the houses are getting painted pink, blue and yellow and artists are painting the local scene for advertising brochures. The first tourists should be showing up any day now. Except that some people in town aren’t too happy about those outside meddlers sweeping in. The dogs aren’t too happy either.
This is a great story of desperation and recovery, both individual and community. Beans is a likable, resourceful kid with a knack for dealing with people. The story is told in a series of incidents that build up to paint a compelling picture of a hard-scrabble town and the hard scrabble residents who must make their life in it. It’s also a great exploration of truth and lies and how sometimes the line between them blurs a bit – and needs to.
The story is told in simple, clear direct prose that brings the characters and the action to life. It’s also a great story for our modern times when “big government” seems to be the problem rather than greed and corruption. Key West wouldn’t be the tourist giant that it is today without an awful lot of assistance from Uncle Sam.
In fact there are many great messages in this book, but the best part is that we are never hit over the head with them. It’s just a delightful story that will appeal to young and old alike.
Full of Beans is simply superb. I've long been a fan of this author, and this latest work once again proves her skill as a master storyteller. Holm makes both time and place come alive in a story rich in feeling that delivers a solid lesson on the great depression without sacrificing humor or heart.
Beans tells it straight from the very first sentence when he declares that "grown-ups lie." You know right away that here's a kid that tells it like it is, and when you meet his family and get to know his friends you will fall in love with them all and find yourself transported to Key West, feeling their struggles and cheering them on as they triumph.
Jennifer Holm makes history come alive for even the youngest of chapter book readers. The writing is excellent, the emphasis on the importance of community and family is most welcome, and the humor is spot on for readers as young as seven or eight. This is a heartwarming story filled with history and heart and is a must read for everyone.
on August 30, 2016
This companion novel to Holm’s Newbery Honor Book, Turtle in Paradise, returns readers to the world of Depression-era Key West. The main character is Beans, Turtle’s cousin. It’s 1934 and the streets of Key West are filled with piles of garbage since there isn’t any money for trash pick up anymore. There are no jobs on the island, especially for a kid. Beans’ mother takes in laundry to make ends meet and his father heads north to New Jersey to see if he can find work there. Beans needs to find a way to provide for the family and for himself, so he tries jobs like searching the stinking garbage piles for cans. But when he doesn’t get paid what he’s been promised, Beans realizes that all adults lie. His best option seems to be working in the smuggling business, but that will have consequences that Beans is not prepared for at all.
Holm writes with a natural ease that is deceptively easy to read. Her writing allows readers to explore Key West in a time just as it is becoming a tourist destination due to the New Deal and its workers. Beans’ personal story is clearly tied to the story of Key West with his own despair and lack of money mirroring the city’s. His own journey through to honesty and truth follows that of the city as well. It’s a clever dynamic that makes both roads to change all the easier to relate to and believe.
Beans is a dynamic and wonderfully funny character. He cares deeply for his family even as he spends time avoiding his baby brother and feeling burdened by his younger brother, Kermit. Still, when others are hurting, Beans is there to help in his own way, one that is so deeply himself that readers will adore it. Throughout Beans grows and matures but steadfastly remains the same character, just a little older and wiser. He is brilliantly drawn and a joy to read.
A great follow-up novel to the award winner, this book is a great read aloud for classrooms and families. Children will howl with laughter at Beans’ adventures all the while learning about the Depression and the value of honesty. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
on September 19, 2016
My kids have been fans of Jennifer Holm's work since they first picked up Baby Mouse books. As they've gotten older, they read her novels and were excited to read Full of Beans. They thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a quick read for them and one of them read it twice it was so great.
This story is about Beans, a kid trying to find a way to make money when times are tight during the Depression. As such, it has a bit of a historical fiction feel to it. I always like when my kids can learn something about the past in an entertaining way which will stick with them. Beans and his gang are living in Key West and what they call New Dealers arrive to make Key West a tourist destination under the President's New Deal. Beans has always know that adults lie and he must figure out what to make of these New Dealers and how he can benefit from their presence.
This book is recommended for ages 8 to 12 and I think that's a perfect range. It is appropriate in it's subject matter and teaches some lessons about honesty, trust, and trying your best. I think fans of Holm's other novels will like this one too and if they haven't read her other works, this is a fine place to start.
I ended up really liking this book and plan on getting the other books by Jennifer Holm. It is not a huge or complicated story, but it has such a satisfying growth in the main character. I found it impossible to not root for him as he makes his way through depression era Key West.
Another thing I really liked about this book is that it is a hidden history lesson on Key West. I have been fortunate enough to visit the Keys a couple of times so the history was not new, but definitely brought alive in the story to the point that Key West because a character in itself. The crux of the stories backdrop is the New Deal attempt to change the island from a sleepy backwater to a tourist destination. But seeded into the story along the way are details like Ernest Hemingway, The turtle corals, and the leper population. At times flowing well, occasionally a little intrusive, it like blending vegetables into a lasagna, you get some history with your story, but occasionally one of the chunks might be a little to bid to swallow.
The writing was delightful. The characters are loveable and I get from the introduction that this character earned his own book from his role in the authors other book "Turtles in Paradise." That book is on our short list right now since we enjoyed this one so much. It is a short and enjoyable read and I recommend it to anyone. Especially anyone taking kids to the Keys.
ok, the cover had me at hello. As an owner of a little black and white short haired dog that died 19 months ago this book wrapped around my heart. I got this for our 8 year old whose grandmother was born (1935) during the great depression (1929 to 1941) but in Connecticut, in the city, not in Key West Florida that still had outhouses. Beans Curry is the main character (Beans is a secondary character of the author's earlier novel Turtle in Paradise). I thought the story was completely make believe but apparently there was a push by the federal government to attract tourism to Key West as a measure to revive it economically.
Like all children's books this comes with a lesson(s). For Beans it means learning that adults can't always be trusted (he gets swindled), that making a pile of money by fooling others can can be forgivable and give lasting hurt, he also learns some great lessons as well - I loved it that Beans cared so much for his hard working parents. And yes, the 9 year old, the 7 year old as well as the 11 year old and the 5 year old loved reading or listening to the story of Beans and his buddies nicknamed Pork Chop and Too Bad.
on September 19, 2016
Jennifer Holm has written another really appealing historical fiction novel based on her family history. While I don't normally have much luck getting students to read historical fiction, I think I could get them to read this since Beans is such a likeable, interesting character. I also loved Key West as a setting and watching it change for the better. Beans willingness to work to earn money to go to the movies and help out his mom is a major plot point that leads to conflict when Beans starts working for a bootlegger who asks him to set off fire alarms to help him transport contraband. The pay is good but the consequences are not and Beans is left trying to make up for his mistakes. The friendships as well as the other people Beans interacts with make the story an interesting one. Beans' little brother Kermit, his grandmother Nana Philly (the meanest woman in Key West), and his feud with Dot (a girl!) all play a role in the choices Beans makes and who he ends up deciding to be. Holm has written another winner with great characters, a fabulous setting, and an interesting plot.
My son, 9, is a big fan of Jennifer Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish, which is a smart, funny story about science and growing up.
In Full of Beans, Holm tackles history with humor, and combines it with the eternal story of growing. My son had never really heard about the Great Depression (more than a passing mention, though I know we tried to explain it some when visiting the Hoover Dam), and he wasn’t exactly sure where Key West was either, but was intrigued by both — asking lots of questions — as he read.
In the end, this is a story about growing up, relatable in any time. He liked all the silly nicknames, including the main character, “Beans”, and we even found an old Little Rascals short to watch online, so he understand some of the references better.
All in all, a story my son really enjoyed -- though perhaps not as much as The Fourteenth Goldfish, with its more fantastical elements — that exposed him to a new era.
As a mom, I like that Holm doesn’t write down to kids. Her books are as readable by adults, as they are by middle graders.
Beans, the main character in “Full of Beans” by Jennifer Holm, acts like he is a bad guy but is really just a good kid who makes mistakes. Throughout the story we see Beans’ good intensions but he simply loses his values in pursuit of those intentions. Eventually he realizes he was wrong and makes a comeback.
Beans has a fun personality, and the setting of Key West during the Great Depression adds richness to the plot. There’s a lot of history mixed in with the fun maneuvers of a boy you have to love. The reader learns much as they follow Beans’ struggles through hard times, facing the consequences of his decisions while maintaining his sense of humor and loyalty of friends and family. Holm gives us much to think about.
“Full of Beans” is a sequel to “Turtle in Paradise” which Holm published in 2010. I did not read the earlier novel but enjoyed “Full of Beans” anyhow and believe it to be an excellent book for middle grade students.