Full of Beans

In her Newbery Honor-winning Turtle in Paradise, Jennifer L. Holm introduced a scrappy bunch of barefoot kids living in Key West during the Depression--including the Diaper Gang that takes care of people's "bad babies" in exchange for candy. Ten-year-old "Beans" Curry is Turtle's cousin and the founder of the Diaper Gang; Full of Beans, the dryly funny prequel to Turtle, is his story.

"Look here, Mac. I'm gonna give it to you straight: grown-ups lie," says the no-nonsense, rather jaded Beans in the novel's first line. Beans has been the "man of the house" for his impoverished family since his father left to find work in New Jersey. This heavy responsibility inspires the boy's "life of crime," helping out a rum-runner named Johnny Cakes. He's trying to do the right thing by earning a buck, but he gets himself into moral hot water that makes coconut ice cream taste like sawdust in his mouth. Beans spends the rest of the book working hard to redeem himself.

Holm's vividly described Key West drips with heat, sways with Cuban music, buzzes with mosquitoes and stinks of garbage. The town is so smelly and decrepit, in fact, that the federal government has taken it over, vowing to shut it down if it's not spruced up. (This really happened, as the author's note explains.) Holm, who has family ties to Key West, captures this colorful slice of Depression history with her usual vivacious wit and colorful expressions like "Mind your own potatoes." Children will love Beans, with his good heart and only occasional bad judgment. A fine and welcome companion to Turtle. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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