In Jennifer L. Holm‘s middle grade novel, Key West in the 1930’s comes alive. The title character, Turtle arrives on the doorstep of her aunt with a sassy mouth, a level head, and a half-burned cat, and joins her cousins as they run a baby care service from the back of a wagon, prank the neighbors and search for treasure in the Keys. All the while, Turtle’s level head helps her to see the truth about what’s going on around her. She discovers family she never knew she had, a home she wasn’t even looking for, and the same old pattern in her mother’s newest beau. It’s a gentle, funny story that is solidly told and appropriate for middle grade readers, though they may find the end as frustrating as I did. It’s a happy ending, no doubt, but comes at some tough to take expense.

TURTLE IN PARADISE has amassed a long list of well-deserved critical praise. But even better than that, kids are going to love it.