Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise Introduction

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Turtle in Paradise Introduction

Close your eyes and think of paradise. What comes to mind? Sandy beaches? Fresh mountain air? A mansion with an infinity pool and golden lions guarding the gate?

How about a rundown house overflowing with grubby kids?

If that last option doesn't sound so great, then Turtle—our eleven-year-old narrator and main girl in Turtle in Paradise—probably likes the way you're thinking. Unfortunately for her, though, this is pretty much the scenario she finds herself in.

Welcome to the Great Depression, an era in U.S. history that saw a whole heckofa lot of people struggling to make ends meet. And Turtle and her mom are no exception, so when Mama gets a job as a housekeeper for a lady who hates kids, she ships Turtle off to Key West to stay with family. Enter the rundown house overflowing with grubby kids.

Though Turtle initially feels pretty bummed about her new digs, all is not lost, and over the course of Jennifer L. Holm's 2011 novel, Turtle comes to understand that though paradise may not look the way it does in the movies, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And guess what? Holm found her own little piece of paradise with this book, too, since it won a Newberry Honor Book and the Golden Kite Award. So pick it up—you just mind find yourself enjoying a piece of the paradise pie when you do.

What is Turtle in Paradise About and Why Should I Care?

We're willing to bet that there are things you really want in this world. Maybe it's the latest gaming system, maybe it's a hot date for the movies this weekend, or maybe it's just a room of your own. No matter what form your dreams take, though, pretty much every single one of us has something we really want but just don't have. And this yearning is at the heart of Turtle's story. Turtle wants more than anything in the world to have a house for herself and her mom.

Here's the twist, though: Turtle winds up pretty happy at the end of this book… and she doesn't just not get the house, she actually loses it (or her ability to get it for the time being, anyway). How can this possibly be? How can Turtle end up happy despite not getting the thing she's hoped for for so long? Simple: She miscalculated. The whole time Turtle thought she wanted a house, what she really wanted was a home—a safe place to return to and feel loved in. And while she doesn't land the house, she gets a home in spades.

Turtle miscalculates her dream. She thinks it's one thing, but really it's another—call it a case of mistaken identity. And the thing is, that this just might be true for you, too. Maybe you really do want that new video gaming system, but then again, maybe what you're really looking for is a way to connect with your brother after school each afternoon. In other words, if you dig deep into your dreams, you just might find they're not quite what they seem, and in the process, that they're more attainable than you've ever realized.

Turtle in Paradise Resources


Author Central
Meet the author, Jennifer L. Holm and get to know what she thinks about, well, everything.

Articles and Interviews

Life in Paradise
Hear what the author has to say in this interview about her book.


Quick 'n' Simple
If you're after a trailer to see if you want to check the book out, look no further than this video.

Book Clips
Figure out what a youngster thinks of Turtle in Paradise.


Read Aloud
An audio version of the book, narrated by Becca Battoe.

Book Reading
Jennifer L. Holm reads a section of the book and explains her inspiration.


Judge Me
We know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but go ahead.

One Depressed Crowd
Wall Street after the Stock Exchange crash.

Migrant Mother
The Great Depression saw many families hurting across America.

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