Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel is based on Jennifer L. Holm’s novel of the same name. We follow a spunky girl named Turtle as she comes of age in the late 1930’s when sent to live with family she has never met in Key West. The town her mother and aunt grew up in still has cousins, old friends, and Turtles not-so-dead grandmother still there. Turtle has been forced to be an adult before her time as her mom has her head in the clouds most of the time (dreams of a home for the two of them, maybe becoming a movie star, her salesman boyfriend is Prince Charming and someday will be providing for them) and Turtle knows that kids are not “sweet as necco wafers” (mostly since several boys hurt her cat Smokey by burning its tail). Yet, Turtle learns how to be a kid, that not all kids are bad (even if they are a bunch of boy cousins and their friends who call themselves The Diaper Gang) and what family is all about after some crazy events blow through her life (literally: Turtle and her new friends are trapped in the middle of a hurricane).
While I enjoyed the book, there was a few parts that did not seem to flow as nicely as they could have. The ending was clipped and predictable for me, (not really a spoiler: but “Prince Charming” is a toad and Turtle will stay with her family in Key West), but I think kids will enjoy. I do want to read the full novel now, as it might have details that are missed (even though the text is plentiful in the graphic novel). There does feel like there should be a sequel due to the way the book ends. The fun part of the story is that it is based on her family history as well as the history of the area.
Savanna Ganucheau’s illustrations are digital and looked a bit faded (I am hoping that is due to my copy being a reader copy and the final will make the colors pop. After all it is Key West, and the illustrations do show the color and life of the community). Their first graphic novel was Bloom by Kevin Panetta, and they mirror but also have their own unique qualities. They are fun and bring to life what is happening (two of the boys faces when they see their teacher at the beach, the tears the babies cry, the cars and people of the different area, the contrasts between “haves and have nots.”)
A section at the end shows the history of the times, what is based on Holm’s actual family, what the state and country was trying to do to build up the community during the Depression (this might be Key West, but it is not the tourist town you might now). It is a cozy book, a book that you know the turnout before you get there, but still enjoy the journey there. This can be an “all aged book” but sensitive readers might not be the best audience as some concepts that might be mature (Turtle’s unwed mother, rumrunners, the scene with the cat, the hurricane causes the place they hide to flood). But everything is done tastefully, and adults would probably be more upset than kids. I would not go much younger than 8 (unless a strong reader) and no older than around 14 for higher end (unless a physical adult).