Three stars might not do proper justice to Turtle in Paradise
, but neither would a four-star rating, in my opinion. There's a lack of depth to many characters. It's one of those books where later mention of a character's name leaves you asking "Who the heck was that again?" The world of the depression-era Keys remains a bit flat outside of the area immediately surrounding Aunt Minnie's and Uncle Vernon's house. Hemingway's appearances seem forced, or unnecessary. And for me, the flip flop between happy and not-so-happy endings could have used a bunch more pages to sort out.
But Turtle in Paradise
won the Newbery Honor for a reason, right? Sigourney and I both loved Turtle's spunk. She's an adventurous and courageous little girl whose love-hate un-fan relationship with movie star Shirley Temple is hilarious at times. I can see how a smiling, bouncy, "oh my goodness" saying movie personality would both comfort and grate on people struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression. The book has humorous moments throughout, like Kermit's explanation of why a baby's nicknamed Pudding: "Mrs. Lowe thought she was getting fat from eating too much banana pudding, but it turned out it was a baby." Nicknames like Beans, Too Bad, Slow Poke, Pork Chop, Turtle and others all have colorful and often funny origins. There's also some cruelty to the naming as well. Kids will be kids, after all.
If you like strong girls as protagonists, witty moments and interesting historical contexts in your fiction, this book's for you. If you need to know your characters and settings intimately, you might want to look elsewhere.