Friday, July 15, 2011

Turtle in Paradise

Holm, J. (2010). Turtle in paradise. New York: Random House.
This book is a 2011 Newbery Honor book as well as a 2011 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee.

Turtle in Paradise is a work of fiction, but there are characters and events based on real people and events that happened during this time period in Key West history.  They are cleverly hidden sometimes, but that is what makes this read so enjoyable.                                                                                       Exposition: Turtle is an 11 year old girl who is living in New Jersey in the 1930's with her mom, Sadiebelle.  Her mom is a housekeeper and her new job does not allow children.  She decides to send Turtle to live with her sister, who Turtle has never met, in Key West, Florida. When Turtle gets to Key West, she is surprised to learn that her aunt did not even know she was coming, and is now worried about how she will take care of her children and now her niece too.
Conflict: Although Turtle misses her mom, she attempts to make the best of things and tries to adjust to her new home and her cousins.  She is also dreaming and waiting for the day her mom and her can live in their own home, a Sear's mail-order home that they have picked out.  All she wants is to have a family, and she is glad her mom has found Archie, who promises one day everything will work out.  Turtle is waiting for that day.  Turtle does not know who her father is and her mom hasn't told her very much about him.
Rising Action:  As Turtle adapts to life in Key West, she starts hanging out with her cousin, Beans and his Diaper Gang.  This group of boys is known around town as the best babysitters!  One day, she is sent to take food to a grouchy elderly woman.  She discovers that this is her grandmother.  She knew that her mom used to live in Key West, but she thought her grandmother was dead.  She begins visiting her grandmother frequently, trying to get to know her.
Climax: While at her grandmother's house one day, she discovers a treasure map.  She is sure it isn't real, but shows it to the Diaper Gang, just in case.  They all decide to go in search of the treasure, taking a boat that doesn't belong to them.  At the island where they map says the treasure is they do actually discover a treasure chest of gold coins, but then also discover that the boat they have stolen has drifted off.  They are stuck on the island.  Then a hurricane hits!
Falling Action: Eventually, Slow Poke finds them and takes them back home.  Turtle is sure that her wonderful life is about to begin.  She has enough money to buy the house for her mom and her.  Her mom and Archie come to Key West, worried about her and find out that she has found a treasure.  They had gotten married on the way, so Turtle is sure that her life is about to be perfect.  Then Archie steals her treasure and leaves the island, leaving her and her mom.
Resolution: Turtle and her mom stay in Key West.  Her mom makes up with her grandmother, and although her life is different than what she thought it would be, she is happy to be with her mom and her newly found extended family.

The author, Holm, did an excellent job of using history to give us unexpected insights in this book.  When Turtle goes looking for work she discovers some interesting characters.  One of them is a writer, and she asks him if he writes for the funny pages.  All the men laugh, and Slow Poke, one of the men says, "Maybe you should start writing for the funny pages, Papa." Key West, 1930's, writer called Papa, could it be Ernest Hemingway??  The author also uses the power of understatement, where you are left wondering, could Slow Poke be Turtle's dad??  You know that her mom lived in Key West, and throughout the book, he shows a tenderness to Turtle.  He also makes the comment that he is too late again when he finds out Turtle's mom is in Key West, but is newly married.  It is left to your imagination whether, perhaps they all live happily ever after, just like Turtle wanted.  Great book!

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