Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise Plot Analysis

By Jennifer L. Holm

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Plot Analysis


Kids Not Wanted

When Turtle's mom gets a new gig as a housekeeper for a lady who doesn't like kids, she ships Turtle off to her Aunt Minnie's place in Key West. It's not like she can turn down work during the Great Depression, after all. Turtle is bummed she has to leave her mom, but she's even more down in the dumps when she gets arrives in Florida and discovers that it isn't the paradise her mom described. There's trash everywhere, and Aunt Minnie lives in a dump.

Turtle is not impressed, and she longs for her mom and a home of their own. This is our initial situation because without it, there would be no book—Turtle has to move down to Florida to meet her family and figure out her place in the world, away from her mom. 

Rising Action

No Girls Allowed

Things get a little tricky when Turtle isn't allowed in her cousin's little club because she's a girl. It's not like she wants to hang out with her bratty cousins and a bunch of babies all day anyway, but it's still unfair that she's not even allowed in the Diaper Gang.

And things only get worse. Turtle finally meets her grandma, but Nana Philly is more interested in throwing food on the floor than getting to know her granddaughter; Turtle understandably feels confused and rejected. She wants to be with her mom again, and she wishes they could move into the Bellewood, a house she saw in the Sears catalog—then everything would be better. This is part of the big conflict in Turtle's mind between what she wants and what she has. 


Hurricane Harbor

Turtle might not be allowed in the Diaper Gang, but that won't stop her from hanging out with them. The guys in the gang don't bug her as much as they used to, so when she finds a hidden treasure map in Nana Philly's pad, she decides to ask them to help her track down the treasure. They're not even sure if it's real, but once they get to the island the map describes, they find a bag full of gold. Ka-ching. Before they can buy their new toys, a hurricane sets in and they can't leave the island. We think Turtle finally gets some good luck, but when the storm rolls in, we're sure this is the climax. She and her new pals could die out there—and it seems like they will. 

Falling Action

Fools Rush In

Luckily the hurricane dies down and the Diaper Gang is found. Phew. Everyone is glad to have them home and safe, and even more excited to see the treasure they found. Turtle's mom comes to town with her new hubby, Archie, in tow. He promises to buy them a big house in Georgia where they'll have peaches and happiness, and Turtle and her mom are swept off their feet. It looks like everything is wrapping up for our main gal, and she's finally going to get her happy ending, despite thinking such things never happen in real life. 


Not Hollywood's Happy Ending

Not so fast. Before Turtle knows it, everything falls apart: Archie runs off with Turtle's treasure money and her mom is left all alone. So long beautiful house, and goodbye perfect family. There will be no happy ending, and Turtle is super bummed out, especially seeing how her mom reacts.

But then Turtle realizes that they still get to stay with Aunt Minnie and her cousins, who are growing on her. So what if they don't get the perfect, Hollywood ending? They still have family and a home, and that will just have to be enough. We get a not-so-perfect resolution when Turtle finally realizes that it's not always about the catalogue house or the perfect family—sometimes it's better to just be yourself, wacky relatives and all.

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