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  • Written by Jennifer L. Holm
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  • Written by Jennifer L. Holm
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  • Written by Jennifer L. Holm
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On Sale: May 11, 2010
Pages: 208 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89316-2
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: May 11, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-73830-1
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In Jennifer L. Holm's New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn't like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple

She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she's never met. Florida's like nothing Turtle's ever seen before though. It's hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.

Includes an Author's Note with photographs and further background on the Great Depression, as well as additional resources and websites.

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews:
"Sweet, funny and superb."

Starred Review, Booklist:
"Just the right mixture of knowingness and hope . . . a hilarious blend of family drama seasoned with a dollop of adventure."


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it.  

I stare out the window as Mr. Edgit's Ford Model A rumbles along the road, kicking up clouds of dust. It's so hot that the backs of my legs feel like melted gum, only stickier. We've been driving for days now; it feels like eternity.   In front of us is a rusty pickup truck with a gang of dirty-looking kids in the back sandwiched between furniture--an iron bed, a rocking chair, battered pots--all tied up with little bits of fraying rope like a spiderweb. A girl my age is holding a baby that's got a pair of ladies' bloomers tied on its head to keep the sun out of its eyes. The boy sitting next to her has a gap between his two front teeth. Not that this stops him from blowing spitballs at us through a straw. We've been stuck behind this truckfor the last few miles, and our windshield is covered with wadded bits of wet newspaper.

A spitball smacks the window and Mr. Edgit hammers the horn with the palm of his hand. The no-good boy just laughs and sticks out his tongue.  

"There oughta be a law. No wonder this country's going to the dogs," Mr. Edgit grumbles.  

Mr. Edgit ("You can call me Lyle") has a lot of opinions. He says folks in the Dust Bowl wouldn't be having so much trouble if they'd just move near some water. He says he doesn't think President Roosevelt will get us out of this Depression and that if you give someone money for not working why would they ever bother to get a job? But mostly Mr. Edgit talks about a new hair serum he's selling that's going to make him rich. It's called Hair Today, and he's a believer. He's used the product himself.  

"Can you see the new hair, Turtle?" he asks, pointing at his shiny bald head.  

I don't see anything. It must grow invisible hair.  

Maybe Archie should start selling hair serum. If his pal Mr. Edgit's anything to go by, most men would rather have hair than be smart. Archie's a traveling salesman. He's sold everything--brushes, gadgets, Bibles, you name it. Right now he's peddling encyclopedias.  

"I could sell a trap to a mouse," Archie likes to say, and it's the truth. Housewives can't resist him. I know Mama couldn't.  

It was last May, one day after my tenth birthday, when I opened the door of Mrs. Grant's house and saw Archie standing there. He had dark brown eyes and thick black hair brushed back with lemon pomade.  

"Well, hello there," Archie said to me, tipping his Panama hat. "Is the lady of the house at home?"  

"Which lady?" I asked. "The ugly one or the pretty one?"  

He laughed. "Why, ain't you a sweet little thing."  

"I'm not sweet," I said. "I slugged Ronald Caruthers when he tried to throw my cat in the well, and I'd do it again."   Archie roared with laughter. "I'll bet you would! What's your name, princess?"  

"Turtle," I said.  

"Turtle, huh?" he mused, stroking his chin. "I can see why. Got a little snap to you, don't ya?"  

"Who's that you're talking to, Turtle?" my mother called, coming to the door.  

Archie smiled at Mama. "You must be the pretty lady."  

Mama put her hand over her heart. Otherwise it would have leaped right out of her chest. She fell so hard for Archie she left a dent in the floor.  

Mama's always falling in love, and the fellas she picks are like dandelions. One day they're there, bright as sunshine--charming Mama, buying me presents--and the next they're gone, scattered to the wind, leaving weeds everywhere and Mama crying.  

But Mama says Archie's different, and I'm starting to think she may be right. He keeps his promises, and he hasn't disappeared yet. Even Smokey likes him, which is saying something, considering she bit the last fella Mama dated. Also, he's got big dreams,which is more than I can say for most of them.  

"Mark my words, princess," Archie told me. "We'll be living on Easy Street someday."  


From the Hardcover edition.
Jennifer L. Holm

About Jennifer L. Holm

Jennifer L. Holm - Turtle in Paradise

Photo © Photo provided by the author

This book, Turtle in Paradise, started with a story my mom liked to tell about her childhood. During the summers, her grandmother would take her to Key West to visit her relatives. Her mother made her promise to “shake her shoes out.” My mom didn’t know why her mother wanted her to do this, but she did it anyway. And then one hot day, she shook her shoes and out popped . . . a scorpion!
 
Writing Turtle in Paradise was a wonderful way to re-connect with my Key West heritage. My great-grandmother, Jennie Lewin Peck, emigrated from the Bahamas to Key West at the turn of the century. She considered herself a “Conch,” what the local Key West folks called themselves, after the native mollusk that so many fished for in the Bahamas. Nana was always talking about how she missed sugar apple ice cream and Spanish limes. When my editor, Shana Corey, started asking me about Nana and my Key West family, I just knew that there was a story somewhere in there.
 
Researching this book was also an interesting way to experience a different side of living through the Great Depression. While Key West suffered significant economic hardship (the town went bankrupt and the majority of the citizens were on economic relief), it didn’t have the same sort of feel as most of the depression stories I was used to hearing—soup lines, tent cities, and the Dust Bowl. Key West was warm for one thing, and there was plenty of free food, courtesy of the sea. One man told me, he ate lobster during the Depression! Key West was a freewheeling town full of characters and bygone industries—sponge fishing, rumrunners, and, of course, pirates! It had all the ingredients for a fabulous setting.
 
I hope you enjoy reading Turtle in Paradise as much as I enjoyed writing it. And if you ever go to Key West, be sure to shake out your shoes!
Praise | Awards

Praise

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2010:
“Sweet, funny and superb”

Starred Review, Booklist, April 15, 2010:
"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."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly:
"This humorous adventure effectively portrays Turtle as caught between her mother's Hollywood-inspired dreams and the very real family . . . that offer a different kind of paradise."

Review, School Library Journal, April 2010:
"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."

Awards

NOMINEE Florida Sunshine State Book Award
NOMINEE South Carolina Children's Book Award
NOMINEE Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
NOMINEE Indiana Young Hoosier Award
NOMINEE Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
NOMINEE Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
NOMINEE Kentucky Bluegrass Award
NOMINEE Bank Street Child Study Children's Book Award
NOMINEE IRA Children's Choices
NOMINEE IRA Teachers' Choices
NOMINEE Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fischer Book Award
NOMINEE New York State Charlotte Award
NOMINEE Texas Bluebonnet Master List
WINNER Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
WINNER NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
WINNER Newbery Honor Book
FINALIST 2014 California Young Reader Medal
NOMINEE ALA Notable Children's Book
NOMINEE 2014 Minnesota Maud Heart Lovelace Award
NOMINEE Massachusetts Children's Book Award
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