Turtle in Paradise

Common Sense Media says

Depression-era story teaches history, meaning of family.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 
Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

This story is based on actual family tales, and claims to give a true look at life during the Depression in Key West. Places are real, and even Ernest Hemingway makes an appearance. The author includes photographs and notes and suggests other books and websites readers could explore.

Positive messages

Turtle learns the real world right under your nose might be a whole lot better than the dreams you are trying to grasp. And even tough people have a soft side. 

Positive role models

Turtle is tough on the outside, with a soft underbelly, just like a turtle. She is smart, strong, helpful, generous, and pretty wise for an 11-year-old.

Violence

Main character tells the story of how mischievous boys lit her cat's tail on fire, and a couple of boys have a fist fight. 

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

References to 1930s entertainment.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One minor character is running rum from Cuba to Key West.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this Newbery Honor book focuses on a young girl who is sent to live with relatives in Key West during the Depression. There are mischievous boys who make some trouble, including setting the tail of the main character's cat on fire, but little else to worry about. This story is based on actual family tales, and claims to give a true
look at life during the Depression in Key West. Places are real, and
even Ernest Hemingway makes an appearance. The author includes
photographs and notes and suggests other books and websites readers
could explore. Readers will relate to Turtle: She is tough on the outside, with a soft underbelly, just like a turtle. She is smart, strong, helpful, generous, and pretty wise for an
11-year-old. In the end, they will be touched by her growing understanding of what "family" means.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

When her mother gets a job as a housekeeper for a rich woman who will not abide children, 11-year-old Turtle is sent to live with her relatives in Key West. This all happens during the Great Depression, and no one is living too high off the hog, especially the Conches. However, a place is made for her, and her cat, and they all make do. Turtle pitches in with the group of boys that include her cousins and their friends, fishes for sponges with Slow Poke (who turns out to be her dad), builds a relationship with her grumpy grandmother, searches for treasure -- and finds it. In the end, she learns important lessons about what having real family means, and that life often does not have a "Hollywood ending," even when it turns out.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Except for the fact that everyone is dirt-poor, living in Key West during the Depression seems like a good life for kids. Readers will enjoy watching Turtle and her new friends run around barefoot, explore on their own, or work together to run a business, trading babysitting for candy as part of The Diaper Gang. Everyone in town seems to be related and has a telling nickname -- which means Turtle's story is packed with eccentric characters, ranging from the ragtag boys who are often up to some kind of harmless mischief to sponge fishermen who speak of pirates and treasure. In the end, kids will find it easy to get swept up in this award-winning book, which is full of adventure, humor, and historical detail. Not only does it impart a sweet lesson about family, but it is also just plain fun to read. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the author's blending of fiction with fact, including her own family's history. Why do you think she chose to write the story this way? Could you tell what she made up and what was real?

  • How can fiction books like this one or like Moon over Manifest teach you about The Depression? Did you learn anything that surprised you about that time? Is it easier for you to learn history this way -- or from more factual books?

Book details

Author:Jennifer Holm
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date:May 11, 2010
Number of pages:208
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of Turtle in Paradise was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old December 8, 2011
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Turtle in Paradise

I think it is a very well written book with a main character you can relate to no mater what your age. It may seem a little "dull" at the beginning, but it gets better as you read. In my opinion, it's a must read.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byhugs-from-me-to... January 27, 2011
AGE
9
QUALITY
 
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 8 years old August 10, 2012
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

Don't know what to say...

I don't know what to say about this book, just that it's really good. I don't really think that Turtle is a good role model, or that the book explains a message, or violence, or educational! Just read it, if you're bored. READ IT FOR A CHANGE!

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Essential School Tools