Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.
Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-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 stay with relatives she's never met.
Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.
From the Hardcover edition.
Turtle, the witty 11-year-old narrator of this standout historical novel, is a straight shooter: “Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.” When her romantic and unrealistic mother, who’s always falling in and out of love, gets a housekeeping job that won’t allow children, she sends Turtle to her estranged family in Depression-era Key West. Though her mother hails Key West as paradise, Turtle initially think it’s a dump (“Truth is, the place looks like a broken chair that’s been left out in the sun to rot”). Two-time Newbery Honor author Holm again crafts a winning heroine who, despite her hardened exterior, gradually warms to her eccentric family members, including her unruly cousins and waspish grandmother (who Turtle thought was dead). Infused with period pop culture references, a strong sense of place, and the unique traditions and culture of Key West natives (aka “Conchs”), this humorous adventure effectively portrays Turtle as caught between her mother’s Hollywood-inspired dreams and the very real family and geography that offer a different kind of paradise. Ages 8-12. (May)