Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Summary: Beans and his family are down on their luck. It’s 1934, and Key West, Florida has been hit hard by the Great Depression. Beans’ mother takes in laundry, while his father has left for New Jersey, hoping to find a factory job. When local bootlegger Johnny Cakes offers Beans a job pulling fire alarms to distract the townspeople while Johnny smuggles out his whiskey, it’s hard to say no. But when a real fire ravages his best friend’s house, the fire department thinks it’s another false alarm and doesn’t show up. Tortured by guilt, Beans leaves behind his life of crime and starts focusing on some of the New Dealers who are trying to turn Key West into a tourist resort. It seems like a crazy plan at first, but Beans and the rest of the Key West kids pitch in to clean up and fix up their town. Before long, movie stars and other rich and famous types are flocking to Key West, and it looks like Beans’ luck may have turned around at last. An author’s note tells more about Key West and President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal plans to transform it. 208 pages; grades 3-6.
Pros: A sequel to Newbery honor book Turtle in Paradise, this story follows Turtle’s cousin Beans and his family and friends. The pages are crowded with memorable characters, including cameos by Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. Beans provides a funny, tough-guy narration to the events of his town that will transport readers to a slice of life in the 1930’s.
Cons: I haven’t read Turtle in Paradise, and am pretty sure I would have had a greater appreciation for some of the characters and incidents in this book if I had.