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Turtle in Paradise

It fascinates me how often children were sent away from home in our recent past because of overwhelming events.  As I discussed yesterday, the children of London were sent to the country side and abroad to avoid Hitler's bombs.  During the American Depression, many children were sent to live with relatives so that their parents could both work to make ends meet.  In Jennifer L. Holmes' novel Turtle in Paradise, we find one such child.

Turtle, the main character of the novel, is sent from her home in the city to live with her Aunt in Key West, Florida in 1935.  Never before has she seen such a strange place. The landscape, flora, fauna and people are completely unfamiliar. It is nothing like her home.  She also finds the behavior of her cousins to be much different than the behavior expected from her while living in the homes her mother cleaned.  The island is replete with mystery, adventure and discovery.  There is even a gentleman everyone calls simply "the writer" living in the town with lots of cats.  Can you guess who that might be?

She does have one thing in common with the people of Key West.  Everyone is poor.  Many of the people are relatives, including a grandmother whose house is full of treasures.  And everyone loves Shirley Temple.  Turtle, however is not Shirley Temple.  She looks at the world with the eyes of a child who knows struggle. Turtle can best be described by the quote found on the back of the book:

Folks have always told me that I look like Momma. Our eyes are different, though. I think the color of a person's eyes says a lot about them. Momma has soft blue eyes and all she sees are kittens and roses. My eyes are gray as soot, and I see things for what they are.

This is a great book for a child new to chapter books.  It is a Newbery Honor Book.  As for its merits as historical fiction, Jennifer L. Holmes does a terrific job of combining her family lore with America's past.

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