There is just something about a lime green cover that attracts the eye. This cover looks modern, right? You wouldn’t expect to be picking up a historical fiction book about depression era Key West? Well, I was wrong and you would be too.
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm follows Beans, one of the slickest, barefoot, marble playing hotshots of Key West. It is 1934 and the height of the Great Depression. Beans is always looking to make some change and his favorite hobby is going to the movies and watching baby super stars like Baby Laroy and Shirley Temple. Beans has grand expectations.
One day New Dealers descend on the town, determined to make Key West into a vacation hot spot. But garbage lines the streets, businesses are closed, houses are crumbling, wild dogs run rampant and no one wants to volunteer to help. Beans doesn’t believe the New Dealers for one second–adults are lying liars and Beans has plans of his own, plans with potentially major consequences.
Will the New Dealers save Key West? Will Beans find fame and will his plans succeed? Or will everything come crashing down?
Holm does it again with Full of Beans. This middle school read accomplishes so much. We get an entertaining story with moral lessons about lying and giving back. We get quite a bit of history, about a time so removed from the present that kids might not even be able to relate and yet it is done in a way that kids will believe. We also get an entertaining story with ups and downs and a read that moves along at a good pace.
This book would make an excellent 4th – 5th grade book discussion pick. Full of Beans can be used to introduce the Great Depression and one of the great success stories of Roosevelt’s New Deal. What’s great about this one is that it is a book parents would actually enjoy reading and discussing with their children. While the kids might not be familiar with the history, the Depression is a topic many adults are familiar with and could easily talk about. There are even discussion questions and further reading to get you started.
I was just so surprised with how much history was actually packed into this book. The Depression, history about Key West, famous baby actors, and the New Deal is only the focus. There is a man with leprosy and we learn that Key West was home to a whole community of lepers. We find out that Robert Frost and Hemingway were some of the first vacationers in Key West. And we even see some medicine of the time when Bean’s brother, Kermit, comes down with a serious illness.
Overall, this was a surprisingly informative read with a good story. This would be a good 4th – 5th grade read, with a rebellious eleven-year-old that lots of boys can probably relate to. I gave this one 5 stars.
That’s all for now!