A prequel to a beloved novel reveals more about a boy who’s full of mischief, heart, and conscience.
Beans Curry, first cousin of the title character in Holm’s Newbery Honor book Turtle in Paradise (2010), gets his own wonderful story, also set in Key West during the Great Depression. While Beans’ tongue here is not quite as acerbic as in the earlier book—he’s still plenty quick with the gibes, though—he’s got smarts, a loyal gang, marble skills, an enterprising head for business, a love for movies, and a way with babies (don’t forget the secret diaper-rash formula). A crooked con man and a New Dealer sent from Washington to refurbish the town to attract tourism galvanize Beans into actions, though of different kinds. In the first instance, criminal doings earning him big money leave Beans heartsick and guilt-ridden; in the other, he atones by getting caught up in beautification zeal. In a charming touch, Holm ends this tale with a snippet of an opening scene in Turtle, melding the two novels seamlessly. Holm effortlessly evokes time and place (two very prominent writers who actually spent time in Key West in the ’30s are named) and develops characters with loads of heart and grit. Hilarity and pathos ensue with friends and family, too. Only a subplot involving Beans and a reclusive adult film enthusiast afflicted with leprosy feels tacked on. Characters are white, appropriate to the demographics of the time.
Filled with humor, heart, and warmth; readers can only hope to hear more about the Curry clan. (author’s note with photographs, list of 1930s child actors, popular sayings, gang rules, and websites) (Historical fiction. 9-12)