If you’re looking for a quick, witty read look no further than Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm. A 2011 Newbery Honor Book, Turtle in Paradise follows the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Turtle who is sent to live with her Aunt in Key West, FL, because her mother has taken a position as a housekeeper and the employer hates kids.
We travel back to Depression-era Florida where Key West was struggling to survive as most everyone else was. It turns out Turtle is related to almost everyone on the islands. She adjusts fairly rapidly, hanging out with the Diaper Gang (her cousins who take care of babies for mothers during the day in exchange for candy) and helping take care of her grandmother by taking her lunch.
It’s on one of these lunch excursions that Turtle finds an old map hidden in her grandmother’s broken down piano. She recruits the Gang and they all “borrow” a boat to go and hunt it up. They find a bag of coins; however, the kids forgot to anchor the boat which drifts off. Marooned on an island, the kids become discouraged and have to rely on one another. A hurricane blows by one night and all they have is a small, dilapidated shack for shelter.
After the storm, they are rescued and brought back. Turtle’s mother returns with her new husband who immediately steals their money and flees to Cuba. However, Turtle realizes her real treasure is her family and friends. “Maybe the real treasure has been right here on Curry Lane the whole time–people who love Mama and me. A home.”
A delightful, quick read full of wonderful, colorful characters who spring to life and are authentic. Highly recommended.