Saturday, September 3, 2016

Kid Konnection: Full of Beans

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a wonderful middle grade book by a three-time Newbery Honoree.

Summary: Grown-ups lie. That’s one truth Beans knows for sure. He and his gang know how to spot a whopper a mile away, because they are the savviest bunch of barefoot conchs (that means “locals”) in all of Key West. Not that Beans really minds; it’s 1934, the middle of the Great Depression. With no jobs on the island, and no money anywhere, who can really blame the grown-ups for telling a few tales? Besides, Beans isn’t anyone’s fool. In fact, he has plans. Big plans. And the consequences might surprise even Beans himself. -- Random House

I am a huge fan of Jennifer L. Holm! I absolutely love her books and have reviewed quite a few of them on my blog over the years -- see here and here. So when I found out that she has a new book out with some of the same characters as TURTLE IN PARADISE called FULL OF BEANS. FULL OF BEANS is actually a prequel to TURTLE.

FULL OF BEANS tells the story of a boy named Bean. Bean lives in Key West during the Great Depression with his mother and younger brother -- his father has left the area to find work. Bean runs around town with a gang, watches his baby brother, and charms the local women with his savvy business skills. He also has developed quite a bit of street sense. In fact, he knows that grown-ups tell lies.

Bean's life is changed by the arrival of two men to Key West. The first is from Washington D.C trying to renovate Key West as part of the New Deal Plan, and the second is a con man who hires Bean for a few assignments. Bean is torn between wanting the money for his family and knowing that he's involved in questionable work.

I absolutely loved FULL OF BEANS. It's already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. It's just a fantastic story with one very special character in Bean. Honestly, I loved this book so much that I hardly know where to start!

One of the things that I appreciated about FULL OF BEANS was that it was a wonderful piece of historical fiction that both boys and girls alike will appreciate. I can only speak for my twelve year old son, but he doesn't seem to find many good historical fiction books that capture his interest. (My daughter had American Girl and Dear America books.) FULL OF BEANS might be that fits the bill. Not only is the main character a boy, but the setting of Key West is extremely interesting. It also explores the basics of the Great Depression and the New Deal and hopefully will encourage young readers to learn more about that time period.

Another fantastic thing about this book is the character of Bean. I adored him. He is tough and street smart, but he's also a really good kid at heart. I loved that this book explored the very complex situation of Bean being hired by a con man. Bean knew his family could use the money, but he also felt a tremendous amount of guilt for being involved in an illegal activity. Once Bean makes the "right" decision, he turns his guilt into something productive.

And finally, I loved how Ms. Holm's made FULL OF BEANS so much fun! Bean is hilarious, as are a few of his friends; and I think kids will relate to him. Or at the very least, they will be entertained by his hijinks. In addition, I like that she made Bean and his friends so real for the time period. They collected marbles and played them against other groups of kids, and they also tried to sell gum that they made themselves from trees. These little details just made the book that much more special to me.

Overall, FULL OF BEANS (and TURTLE IN PARADISE for that matter) is a must-read book. This novel should be included in classroom as well as home libraries!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

I love her books too! This one sounds perfect for me. I use the phrase "full of beans" all the time. I'm glad to see there's a follow up to Turtle in Paradise.

Stacie said...

I have no doubt I'd love this book based on your glowing review!

Kate Unger said...

I saw Jennifer speak about this book at BEA. It sounded really cute, but I was trying to limit the amount of MG I picked up there since I don't read too much of it. I'll have to add it to my list to read when Christopher when he's a little older.