Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Turtle in Paradise

Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafers, but I’ve lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten.  The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder.  Kids get away with it.

We’ve had a running discussion of TURTLE IN PARADISE in the comments these past few months, but the book has never gotten its very own blog post.  Mea culpa!  The plot, characters, and voice are very solid, but for me, the most distinguished aspect of the novel is its setting, the way Holm effortlessly and economically communicates what it was like to live in the Florida Keys during the 1930s.  We spent some time discussing the possibility of a young Newbery like CLEMENTINE and THE NIGHT FAIRY and if TURTLE IN PARADISE isn’t quite that young, it’s still younger than KEEPER and COUNTDOWN, other books about fourth graders that were thoroughly discussed here.  Moreover, this novel, more than the others recognized by the committee, will probably have the largest child audience, and the cover–which some have criticized for being too modern and too misleading–will draw them in.

This marks the third Newbery Honor for Holm (OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, TURTLE IN PARADISE), and she joins a small group of authors to have earned this distinction.  This coming year will see the publication of a sequel for that first one, THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA, so speculation will now naturally turn whether Holm can earn the Medal.  Regardless, I think she has already cemented an enduring legacy in children’s literature, and it has as much to do with her transitional chapter books in graphic novel form, the phenomenally popular BABYMOUSE series, as with her Newbery-winning books.  Her Newbery books may indeed never go out of print, but I’m betting these, too, will endure the test of time (and without the imprimatur of the Newbery seal), turning kids into readers, one book at a time.

Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. While we’re praising Holm’s body of work, don’t forget MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF. A very fun and unique book.

  2. Here’s hoping that Holm wins the gold one day.

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Did anyone notice that the honor books were read alphabetically by title this year? They’re supposed to be read alphabetically by author. Thus, TURTLE IN PARADISE should have been the first honor book, but instead it was the last.

  4. WE didn’t have many copies of TURTLE for our mock, but the kids that read it became instant fans. I’ve been turning their attention the Holm’s entire body of work. I had a couple girls walk out happy as clams today carrying Bosten Jane and Amiela. Thanks for the heads up on the sequal. I don’t love direction of the cover, but my guess is that it will be very kid friendly.

Speak Your Mind