Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise The Home

By Jennifer L. Holm

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The Home

Because Mama's the housekeeper, we get free room and board. Which wouldn't be so bad, except the rest of the house usually comes with kids. And they're never nice to the housekeeper's daughter. (1.42)

Turtle never feels at home when her mom is a housekeeper. For one thing, she has to deal with spoiled brats who are rude to her, plus she gets the worst room in the house and has to split it with her mom. We can understand why she'd want something more.

Mama's promised me that someday we're going to live in our own home. We've got it all picked out, too. It's a Sears mail-order house, from a kit. The Bellewood, Model #3304. (1.45)

The fact that Turtle has a house ear-marked in a catalog tells us a lot. She's been dreaming about the house for a long time and she knows exactly what she wants. It's clear that she doesn't want to settle when it comes to her home because it's such a big dream.

I think life's more like that cartoon by Mr. Disney—The Three Little Pigs. Some big bad wolf's always trying to blow down your house. (1.56)

It's funny how even Turtle's description of how she sees life involves a house. We don't think that's a coincidence. She picks this cartoon specifically because of what it means: some monster is taking away your house, time and again. Pretty dark view of life, don't you think?

But it's the green peeping out everywhere that catches my eye—between the houses, in the yards and alleyways. Twining vines, strange umbrella-type trees with bright orangey-red blossoms, bushes with pink flowers, and palm trees. Like Mother Nature is trying to pretty up the place. She has a long way to go, though. (2.8)

When she first arrives in Florida, Turtle describes her new home to us. We'd be lying if she said it sounds like paradise. We'd also like to point out that she spends so much time giving us vivid details about her new home that we know it doesn't give her the comfort and solace like the places she's stayed with her mom have.

It's a tiny room, with an odd-looking shuttered window, like a hatch, set deep in the sloping roof. There's an iron bed and a small chest of drawers. (3.7)

Turtle finally has her own room (yay) but it smells funky and was decorated by a boy (bummer). As she settles into her new house, Turtle realizes that she felt more at home among the rich, spoiled brats who would tease her than she does in Key West with her family.

I look at the house. "Someone lives in there?"

"You mean the shutters?" Kermit asks. "They've been up for years. She put them up for a hurricane and won't let anyone take them down." (8.25-26)

An abandoned looking house is where her grandma lives, and Turtle can hardly believe it. She knows folks around Key West aren't rolling in the dough, but this is a low standard even for them. Likewise, inside the house Nana Philly has rickety old furniture and doesn't welcome anyone in with her attitude.

Uncle Vernon doesn't buy treats like Archie, but things are different with him in the house. Beans is a little nicer, and Buddy has fewer accidents, and Aunt Minnie doesn't seem so tired. (10.49)

Turtle notices how Aunt Minnie's becomes more like a home when Uncle Vernon is around—he soothes everyone and brings more joy into the home with him. He's compared to Archie here in showing their different approaches. Her uncle doesn't need gifts and products to sell people.

I've got my very own fancy room next to Mama and Archie's in the Key West Colonial Hotel on Duval Street. The sheets are crisp, and the pillows are plump. It's probably the nicest bed I've ever slept in. But that's just the problem: I can't sleep. (18.2)

Everything is coming together for Turtle, but something is still missing. Even when she gets what she wants, she's restless. She figures out that it's not crisp sheets and plump pillows that make a home, but the people you share it with.

I look back at the little Conch house. It will never be the Bellewood, with its modern attractive exterior and Venetian mirrored cabinet. But it doesn't seem quite so small or shabby to me anymore. (18.88)

Over time, Turtle's opinion of the house changes from negative to positive. Why? She's gotten to know the people inside much more, and she realizes they make the home more inviting and comforting than any Venetian cabinets ever could.

Maybe the real treasure has been right here on Curry Lane the whole time—people who love Mama and me. A home. (18.89)

Aw… This one would make a mom proud. We're happy for Turtle that she gets this, but we want to point out how she defines home. It's no longer the Bellewood or a place with a big room and fancy stuff; now it's a group of people who love each other.

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