Tag Archives: Jennifer Holm

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm – The Newbery Project


Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm

Praise be to all that is sunny in Florida. I was not wrong. I did remember correctly that Turtle in Paradise  was a great book. Funny, even. Okay, yes, there is a sad part in the end. But this sadness is nowhere near as overwhelming as the heart-crushing grief caused by Our Only May Amelia (Just last night I got teary-eyed trying to describe that book to my husband. In fact, it’s making me a little melancholy AGAIN just thinking about it.)

I listened to Turtle on audiobook in 2011 and LOVED it. But after reading Our Only May Amelia and listening to Penny From Heaven, I wondered if my memory deceived me. Amelia, of course, plunged me into a mini-depression. Parts of it were just that sad. Penny wasn’t quite as mournful, but it certainly didn’t live up to my memories of Turtle. Turtle is just funny.

Favorite lines:

“We got babies today.”

“I don’t like babies. They’re like Shirley Temple. Everybody thinks they’re cute, but all they do is scream and make messy diapers.” —  I’ve been trying to remember for two years where I got this line from. Have to admit, I thought our own clever E. had said it, but then I kept wondering how she knew about Shirley Temple. Of course E. didn’t say it — Turtle did.

And yes, I LOVED the diaper gang.

Plot Summary from Jennifer L. Holm’s website:

Life isn’t like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She’s smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she’s never met.

Florida’s like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It’s hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm, Audiobook narrated by Becca Battoe

Newbery Honor: 2011

A.R Level/Points:  3.7/4.0; Middle Grades

Penny From Heaven, by Jennifer Holm – The Newbery Project


Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm

I now know what an Iron Lung looks like. (Thank you, Jennifer L. Holm for making me wonder and thank you Google for making pictures of EVERYTHING so easy to find.) The most horrible part about the Iron Lung is that some people who contracted polio ended up using an Iron Lung for life. I mean, look at these things:


I worry every day that O will catch yet another virus from one of the other babies in his daycare and we’ll end up, yet again, hunkered down for the long haul at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Doing a little research on polio makes me feel a little paranoid. These days, there’s almost no chance that your typical immunized kid will come down with a deadly casually transmitted disease. (Thank you, Dr. Salk!) And the next time I get all pitiful about O being hooked up to oxygen for almost three weeks:

2013-03-27 In the hospital...again

Next time, I’m going to remind myself of the iron lung, and the fact that he’ll never get polio. And I’m going to remember to be grateful.

From Jennifer Holm’s website:

It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing’s that easy in Penny’s family. For starters, she can’t go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father’s name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren’t speaking to each other!

Penny From Heaven was an enjoyable flashback to a bygone era, but Turtle in Paradise is still my favorite of Holm’s three Newbery honored books. I listened to Turtle long before I started The Newbery Project. I’ll be reading (or listening to) it again when I’ve finished the rest of the Newbery books from the 2000s. A little piece of me wonders — will I love it as much the second time, now that I’ve read so many other wonderful books for kids?

Stay tuned to find out.

Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm; Narrated by Amber Rose Sealey

Newbery Honor – 2007

A.R. Level: 4.0; Middle Grades

Our Only May Amelia, by Jennifer Holm – The Newbery Project


Our Only May Amelia

Okay, I admit it. I cried. And cried. And cried. In fact, I’ve been trying to decide for days how I was going to write up this post. My feelings about this book were a lot like my feelings about certain movies I’ve seen that were deep, powerful, moving, and so painful that I couldn’t recommend them to anyone else.

Most of Our Only May Amelia is just purely entertaining. May Amelia is the only girl in a family of seven boys, and in fact, is the only girl in the whole settlement. She wants to do everything her brothers do, and why not? Except that May Amelia lives in rural Washington in 1899. So we get to follow May Amelia as she pushes against the boundaries of propriety, and that part is enjoyable. I was really rooting for her.


Which I guess is part of the point. I was so completely rooting for her, that when bad things started happening, I just couldn’t handle it.

Now I know that life in 1899 was hard. I guess maybe I have no concept of how hard. Or maybe I’m just weak. I had a similar feeling reading Wuthering Heights recently. As one person after another in Wuthering Heights died, I thought either this is the most depressing book of all time, or life was really, really, horrible in England in the 1800s. (For the record, Wuthering Heights IS the most depressing book of all time.) Apparently life was just as hard, and death just as real in May Amelia’s Washington. I know that some my over-reaction is because the one main death that occurs is my worst fear — the thing that wakes me up in a cold sweat at night and causes me to place a hand on baby’s chest to make sure he’s still breathing. So, yes, I am weak, and May Amelia’s pain was so real to me that I still feel overwhelmed with sadness as I type these words — a week after I finished the book.

If you’re stronger than me, read this book. Just keep a box of tissues handy.

Our Only May Amelia, by Jennifer L. Holm

Newbery Honor Book – 2000

AR Level: 4.8, Middle Grades