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Friday, September 16, 2016

Full of Beans. by Jennifer L. Holm. Random House, 2016. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"The New Dealers were tearing through town like a hurricane. Renovation had started on the Casa Marina Hotel. Garbage was being carted away, potholes filled in. Benches were springing up all over town for the mysterious tourists. Then there were the houses. Mr. Stone worried there weren't enough places for visitors to sleep. The New Dealers were fixing up falling-apart houses, to be rented ... "

In a companion to Turtle in Paradise (2010), this tale takes readers back to the time of the Depression and its effects on Key West where Turtle's cousin Bean is living an impoverished life. The city is strewn with garbage in the wake of a lack of money to pick it up. Bean's father is in New Jersey looking for work while his mother does laundry trying to keep the family afloat. Beans wants to help; but, what is there for a kid to do when so many are looking for work?

Combing the huge piles of garbage for condensed mile cans, after being promised payment for them, only proves to Beans that there are crooks out there looking to take advantage of him. When not compensated for his hard work, Beans accepts that adults lie to kids and that is that. Desperate, he accepts an offer to work in the smuggling business. He knows it could mean big trouble! He is filled with guilt for his illegal doings, and tries to make up for that by helping to make Key West a better place for all, and especially for an influx of tourists.

Jennifer Holm is such a skilled writer. In this book, she takes her readers right to the heart of Depression-era Key West at a time when the government makes the decision to put money into its reconstruction as a tourist destination. New Deal workers arrive with plans to transform it with paint, determination, and a good deal of hard work. There is a lot of history in its pages and even introduces Julius Stone who was sent by the government to make a difference there. As Key West is  transformed, so is Beans. Knowing that he is living an unsavory life makes him think seriously about the repercussions if he is caught, and the people who are hurt by his actions.

I love Beans, and you will, too. He is funny, charming, loves his family and cares about others. He does get older and certainly a lot smarter, but he remains true to himself and his spirit. He is accompanied by a fine cast of characters who get themselves into some hi-jinks sure to be enjoyed by all readers.

It is perfect for reading aloud with your family, or in your classroom. Have Turtle's story on hand for those who want to read more about the Curry family.

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