Review of Full of Beans

holm_full of beansstar2 Full of Beans
by Jennifer L. Holm
Intermediate    Random    196 pp.
8/16    978-0-553-51036-2    $16.99
Library ed.  978-553-51037-9    $19.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-553-51039-3    $10.99

Beans Curry, first introduced in Turtle in Paradise (rev. 5/10), gets his own starring role in this standalone prequel set in 1934 Key West. With his dad out of work and his mom taking in laundry to help make ends meet, Beans looks for odd jobs where he can find them. One such job is collecting empty condensed milk cans, cleaning them, smoothing the sharp edges, and selling them to Winky, a local con man who promises ten cents for twenty cans but winds up paying only a nickel. Right then and there, Beans decides he won’t get “Winkied” again, and begins working for a local rumrunner instead. Beans’s earnest voice shows a young boy trying so hard to help out and to do the right thing, but getting caught up in dubious circumstances over which he has no control. Multifaceted supporting characters — an intrepid group of friends (all with nicknames such as Pork Chop and Too Bad), a fussy baby brother, a pushy girl nemesis, a mean grandmother, a Key West resident afflicted with leprosy — are all seen through Beans’s refreshingly honest eyes and create a novel as entertaining as the motion pictures he loves to see. Short episodic chapters, perfect for reading aloud, adroitly incorporate the historical background and flavor of Key West during the Great Depression, but never at the expense of character or story. An author’s note including generalized historical background, a list of Hollywood child actors of the period, and local sayings completes the book.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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