Mary's Reviews > Penny from Heaven

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
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's review
Nov 07, 09

bookshelves: historical-fiction

From Booklist
Gr. 5-8. Penny lives with her "plain old American" mother and grandparents, but she has an open invitation to visit her deceased father's Italian family, where the delicious aromas are as inviting as the boisterous relatives who welcome her. Against the backdrop of these contrasting 1950s households, the author of Newbery Honor Book Our Only May Amelia (1999) charts the summer of Penny's twelfth birthday, marked by hapless episodes as well as serious tensions arising from the estranged families' refusal to discuss her father's death. Penny is a low-key character, often taking a backseat role in escapades with high-spirited cousin Frankie. However, Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy in this coming-of-age story, populated by a cast of vivid characters (a burping, farting grandpa; an eccentric uncle who lives in his car--"not exactly normal for people in New Jersey"). Concluding with a photo-illustrated endnote explaining Holm's inspirations in family history, this languidly paced novel will appeal most to readers who appreciate gentle, episodic tales with a nostalgic flavor. Hand selling may be necessary to overcome the staid jacket illustration. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association.

I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. The characters were strong and well-defined. I really associated with Penny through her struggles with her family and the differences between the two. The relationship between Penny and her cousin, Frankie, was awesome. What I really enjoyed about this book, and the whole genre of historical fiction, is the ability to teach about history through fiction. If I wasn't in this class, I would probably enjoy reading this story simply for the story of Penny and her family. The storyline and characters are strong enough to support a story. However, what I will walk away with, after reading this book, is the knowledge about how Italians were treated at this time in history! I had no idea! Curfews, internment camps! This was a great story, but an even better history lesson.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Rozeq I like how you described Penny's grandparents, "plain old American." I love your word choice. I agree with many of the reasons you listed for liking this book, such as the developed characters and the history. Great Review!

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