In brief: In this quintessential summer story, 11-year-old Turtle goes to live with her aunt in Key West, Fla., when her mom’s new housekeeping job proves kid-unfriendly. (In the middle of the Great Depression, you have to take the jobs you can get, but Turtle’s mom hasn’t always made the best life choices.) As Turtle explores her new community and makes friends with her wild cousins, who call themselves the Diaper Gang, she discovers the joys of family and of standing up for what you really want.
What makes it a great readaloud: Holmes really captures both the beauty and the hardship of life in 1930s Florida—this book is a great jumping-off point for reading more about the Great Depression. Turtle is a tough, likable protagonist, and her cousins’ antics are pretty hilarious. (Bonus: Now you have a fun excuse to look up Shirley Temple and Little Orphan Annie on YouTube.)
But be aware: Kids may not love the ending, which definitely isn’t Hollywood-happy.
Quotable: “What is it with folks always talking about where they’re from? You could grow up in a muddy ditch, but if it’s your muddy ditch, then it’s gotta be the swellest muddy ditch ever.”