Full of Beans

Jennifer L. Holm. Random House, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-553-51036-2
In this excellent prequel to the Newbery Honor–winning Turtle in Paradise, Holm recounts the origins of the Diaper Gang, the group of barefoot boys who have the run of Key West during the Great Depression. Their unofficial leader, Beans, narrates the arrival of the New Dealers who attempt to transform the poverty-stricken island into a tourist destination. Through Beans’s eyes, Holm captures the population’s economic distress (“Our town looked like a tired black-and-white movie”), with his father heading north to look for work, his mother’s hands “red and raw” from doing the neighbors’ laundry, and the ubiquitous “conch chowder.” To help his family, Beans ventures into a life of crime, setting false fire alarms to create diversions for Cuban rum smuggler Johnny Cakes; dire repercussions motivate him to make amends, igniting his latent leadership skills to the town’s benefit. Period details—like keeping Sears and Roebuck catalogues handy in outhouses, “marble mania,” people with leprosy hidden by their families, and the Shirley Temple craze—make for entertaining and illuminating historical fiction. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Release date: 08/30/2016
Compact Disc - 978-0-7352-0754-7
Library Binding - 208 pages - 978-0-553-51037-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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