Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

I like so much about this book:
It has a sense of humor that sets a tone as appealing as the Key West scenery where it takes place.
The protagonist is sharp, independent, and more appealing than the scenery.

I like the story:Turtle's mom is a cleaning lady who has to send her daughter back home to live with her sister while she works for a family who won't allow children. Turtle has to squeeze in with her lively cousins in a chaotic, kid-centered, small-town atmosphere where she endears herself to the local residents with her unique personality.

I like the adventure:buried treasure; hurricanes; a brief stint stranded on an island and a barefoot summer.

I like the history:pictures at the end tie in the real-life inspiration for characters, events, and setting of the Key West during the Great Depression.

I like the lessons:
Turtle sometimes complains, in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner about the poor behavior of kids and comments cynically on the nature of adults until her transformed opinion is revealed toward the end with this comment on her aunt's house: " doesn't seem quite so small or shabby to me anymore. I can see past the rickety porch and the tin roof and know it's built just like its people, to sway in a storm and not break."

I do not like: having to point out the need to be cautious about ?'s mom's weakness in relationships with men. It's an uphill battle in this culture to help our children grow and internalize God's plan for love and marriage. Role models in books or movies are important. Turtle's mom isn't particularly helpful. An adult can understand this character and her motivations, but I'd be cautious assuming tweens will have mature judgement.

Mom left Key West pregnant, ran through a few relationships with irresponsible men, and fell for another con artist in the end. She's susceptible because she's needy. Her relationship with her own mom was damaging (resolved in the end). I cringed when Turtle had a couple conversations which alluded to one of the men on Key West being her father although she was unaware at the time that there was innuedo in her flippant comments.

Turtle's level-headed maturity is a remarkable testament in her circumstances. As an adult, you can understand that she is the adult in the relationship because she has to be. Unlike the other lessons learned, though, there is not much evidence from the story to redeem this as a life lesson. Mom doesn't seem to mature and neither she nor Turtle seem to wrestle with the ill-effects of this behavior. In fact, Turtle seems to sail rather smoothly right through it. That's a hopeful but not realistic effect of being fatherless.



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