Turtle in Paradise
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.
We’ve had a running discussion of TURTLE IN PARADISE in the comments these past few months, but the book has never gotten its very own blog post. Mea culpa! The plot, characters, and voice are very solid, but for me, the most distinguished aspect of the novel is its setting, the way Holm effortlessly and economically communicates what it was like to live in the Florida Keys during the 1930s. We spent some time discussing the possibility of a young Newbery like CLEMENTINE and THE NIGHT FAIRY and if TURTLE IN PARADISE isn’t quite that young, it’s still younger than KEEPER and COUNTDOWN, other books about fourth graders that were thoroughly discussed here. Moreover, this novel, more than the others recognized by the committee, will probably have the largest child audience, and the cover–which some have criticized for being too modern and too misleading–will draw them in.
This marks the third Newbery Honor for Holm (OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, TURTLE IN PARADISE), and she joins a small group of authors to have earned this distinction. This coming year will see the publication of a sequel for that first one, THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA, so speculation will now naturally turn whether Holm can earn the Medal. Regardless, I think she has already cemented an enduring legacy in children’s literature, and it has as much to do with her transitional chapter books in graphic novel form, the phenomenally popular BABYMOUSE series, as with her Newbery-winning books. Her Newbery books may indeed never go out of print, but I’m betting these, too, will endure the test of time (and without the imprimatur of the Newbery seal), turning kids into readers, one book at a time.
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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