Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer Holm 


It's the middle of the Great Depression, and 11-year-old Turtle has been sent to Key West to live with relatives. Once there she discovers a different way of life and a household full of rambunctious cousins who have a strict 'no girls allowed' policy.

Excluded from their activities, Turtle soon finds her own adventures in the form of a treasure map and dreams of life on easy street.

This is neither a stark look at the hardships of the depression nor is it a sentimental tale of yesteryear. Holm does an exceptional job of recreating the era and packing in loads of interesting historical tidbits. In fact, Holm hits it just right for this age group, creating a book that is part historical fiction, part adventure tale, and part hilarious romp.

It's a pleasure to read, with characters that are fresh and engaging right from page one. Kids won't realize how much they're actually learning about life during the Great Depression! An excellent Author's Note at the end provides information on Key West during that time and on the people referred to in the book.


Awards Won

   - Newbery Honor 2011
   - American Library Association Notable Children's Book 2011
   - Society Children's Book Writers Golden Kite Award
   - Booklist Editor's Choice Children's Book 2011


Reading Levels

Interest Level:  Gr. 4-7              DRA Level: 40                      Lexile Measure: 610L
Grade Equivalent: 3.4              Guided Reading: S                     


Available Book Covers

We found three different book covers for this book, but the one on the left is the most widely available (and cutest, in our opinion). :)


To learn more about this book, click the link below.  Please note that if you purchase an item from Amazon, they give us a small referral fee. (This helps pay for site hosting costs, thus allowing us to keep everything free for site visitors!)




Turtle in Paradise Lesson / Activity Ideas

Turtle in Paradise is not only a pleasure to read, it's also a fantastic title to use in American history units on the Great Depression. Below are a tips and ideas for using this book in the classroom.

Letters Home to Mom
A fun writing exercise to accompany this book is to have students write 'letters home to mom' at various stages in the book (ie... divide the book up so as to create five letter writing assignments.) In the story, Turtle is away from her mother, living with relatives in Key West. Have the students pretend to be Turtle writing letters home to tell her mother about what is going on in her life, what she thinks about life in Key West, and what she is looking forward to when they reunite again.

This could be a good way to assess whether the students are reading and understanding the book, plus work in additional writing practice.

edHelper Literature Unit
The website edHelper has a literature unit devoted to this book, including a journal form, word wall materials, quizzes, crossword puzzles, word searches, and more.  To access the unit, visit this page on the edHelper website. Note: You have to be a member. We're not suggesting you join and do not get any sort of 'bonus' for referrals. We are just letting you know the materials are there.  :)


To learn more about this book, click the link below.  Please note that if you purchase an item from Amazon, they give us a small referral fee. (This helps pay for site hosting costs, thus allowing us to keep everything free for site visitors!)







This book was an honoree for the prestigious Newbery Award for best children's literature. We have a list of the Newbery Award books. Check them out.