Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise Shirley Temple

By Jennifer L. Holm

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Shirley Temple

It's hard to imagine someone hating child starlet Shirley Temple as much as Turtle does. Before we get into why Turtle hates the starlet, though, let's figure out who she was. Before Miley Cyrus, the kids from the Harry Potter movies, or the Olson twins, there was Shirley Temple. She led the way for future child stars by becoming a superstar before she was five. She could sing, she could dance, and she was a staple in squeaky-clean films like The Little Princess and Heidi. In other words,during the 1930s, everyone adored her.

That's precisely why Turtle hates her. She spells it out for us:

I can't stand her. Real kids aren't anything like Shirley Temple and I should know. (1.33)

Turtle hates Shirley Temple mainly because everyone thinks she's the best thing since sliced bread. Turtle, however, thinks kids are way meaner than adults think they are, so it's no surprise that her most hated star of Hollywood films is, well, a kid. Turtle also thinks that Hollywood films—the very kind that Shirley Temple is featured in—offer unrealistic happy endings that never, ever occur in real life. And these happy endings, of course, reinforce Turtle's mom's habit of falling in love with men who fall through over and over again.

Despite being president of the Shirley Temple Stinks club, Turtle looks to the starlet for guidance once she's on the island and doesn't know if help will ever arrive. She tells us:

It's drizzling and we're all scratching at our mosquito bites. My face feels hot and tight. I wonder what Shirley Temple would do in this situation. Probably sing a song about how fun it is to be stuck on an island. (16.2)

And sing a song Turtle does. So maybe Shirley Temple isn't so bad. After all, the rest of the kids chime in, too, and spirits are definitely lifted.

In the end, Turtle equates Shirley Temple with Hollywood films. Since she's the popular actress of the day, it's easy to see why. More than that, though, in the starlet, Turtle sees everything that's wrong with the promises that Hollywood sells to millions of people. There are no happy endings, according to Turtle. Ever.

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