Study Guide

Turtle in Paradise Summary

By Jennifer L. Holm

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Turtle in Paradise Summary

Meet Turtle. She's a typical eleven-year-old living through the Great Depression. Except for one thing: She hates Shirley Temple. Everyone on God's green earth is totally in love with the starlet, except for our main girl. Why? Turtle doesn't think life is like a movie—instead it's messy, complicated, and sometimes, you don't get a happy ending.

Take her mom for example: Turtle's mom works really hard as a housekeeper, but she can never get lucky in love. Besides, her new boss isn't too keen on children, so Turtle has to go live with her aunt in Florida for a while. She's on her way down there when we catch up with her in fact.

Turtle feels a little sorry for herself—always being mocked by the kids her mom works for, never having their own house—but then she gets to Curry Lane in Key West where her Aunt Minnie lives. To put it plainly, the place is a dump. Yet that doesn't stop Aunt Minnie from taking Turtle in and giving her a home.

Turtle longs for her own home with her mom, where she doesn't have to share her stuff with her cousins. They're not very welcoming to her, especially Beans who makes fun of Turtle's name and won't let her in his little club called the Diaper Gang. And no, we're not really sure where a kid named Beans gets off on mocking a kid named Turtle, but so it goes.

Turtle's even more down in the dumps when she meets her grandma—who she thought was dead—and finds that Nana Philly is a bitter old lady who hates kids. Determined to make it work, Turtle keeps going back to her house and feeding her lunch, even if she gets nothing in return. One day, she finds an old treasure map in her grandma's rickety old piano that claims to show where Black Caesar's treasure is buried. Turtle's not so sure it's real, but she's willing to give it a try, so she enlists the help of the Diaper Gang and goes hunting.

After a lot of searching and disappointment, Beans is ready to give up, but Turtle wants to continue. She trips over a rock with a C on it (for Black Caesar, perhaps?) and they find the treasure. It's worth $20,000 and the gang splits it evenly between all of them, even cutting Nana Philly a portion since they found the map at her place.

Turtle's mom is on her way down to meet up with her daughter, but when she arrives, she's got a surprise of her own in store: She's married Archie, a salesman she fell head-over-heels for. He promises to buy them a house and give them their Hollywood happy ending.

Turtle is on cloud nine. She finally gets her own place with her mom and Archie's really nice to her—not like all the other guys her mom dated. They make their way around saying goodbye to relatives before they leave… but Archie doesn't show at the meeting point. Turns out he's ditched them, and run off to Cuba with Turtle's treasure money. Ugh. It's pretty much the worst. Turtle's mom is heartbroken, but they decide to stay with Aunt Minnie and hang out in Key West for a while.

At least they have a place to call home there.

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