Reviews for Penny from Heaven

Booklist Reviews 2006 April #2
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. ((Reviewed April 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
In 1953, eleven-year-old Penny gets her arm caught in a washing machine wringer. While she's hospitalized she learns the truth about her father's death: he died in a WWII American internment camp because he was an Italian immigrant. The story begins slowly with many historical explanations before building in intensity, but Penny's large Italian American family is filled with engaging characters. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2006 June #1
Penny, almost 12, is caught between two extremes: her mother's small, uptight, WASP family, and her dead father's large, exuberant, Italian one. Summers, she moves freely between them, mediating as best she can between the two. Her best pal is her cousin Frankie, with whom she delivers groceries from her uncle's store, worships at the shrine of the Brooklyn Dodgers and gets into trouble. No one talks about her father's absence, and that's beginning to bother her more and more. And even worse, her mother has begun dating the milkman. Holm has crafted a leisurely, sprawling period piece, set in the 1950s and populated by a large cast of offbeat characters. Penny's present-tense narration is both earthy and observant, and her commentary on her families' eccentricities sparkles. Various scrapes and little tragedies lead to a nearly catastrophic encounter with a clothes wringer and finally the truth about her father's death. It takes so long to get there that the revelation seems rather anticlimactic, but getting to know Penny and her families makes the whole eminently worthwhile. (Fiction. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 December #4
About this Newbery Honor book, PW wrote, "Holm conjures a nostalgic 1953 New Jersey summer in this novel with a plucky 11-year-old narrator at its center.... Readers will enjoy observing Penny's growth, how she mediates a peace among her family members and offers a glimmer of heaven." Ages 10-12. (Dec.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 August #4

Newbery Honor author Holm (Our Only May Amelia ) conjures a nostalgic 1953 New Jersey summer in this novel with a plucky 11-year-old narrator at its center. Penny divides her time between two extremes: her overprotective single mother (who is "afraid of just about everything that involves fun") and the maternal grandparents with whom she lives, and her deceased father's colorful Italian family. Despite her passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers and gentle comic voice, Penny emerges primarily as an observer witnessing the antics of her more zany relatives, including her favorite uncle Dominic who lives in his car, her scheming cousin Frankie (who doubles as her best friend) and her perennially black-clad grandmother Nonny, who lives to feed people and feuds with her daughter-in-law, an ex-Rockette. In the conflict between Penny and her mother's beau, the narrative offers a fresh take on a familiar plight. The relaxed pace picks up after an accident lands Penny in the hospital and she overhears a rumor about her father. Holm includes telling historical details, including information about WWII Italian internment camps and how Penny's mother will not allow her to swim in a public pool or visit a movie theater because of the risk of polio. Readers will enjoy observing Penny's growth, how she mediates a peace among her family members and offers a glimmer of heaven. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2006 July

Gr 5-7 -Penny Falucci, 11, lives with her widowed mother and maternal grandparents, but her father's large, Italian family is tremendously important to her, too. It frustrates her that no one talks about his death, but as the summer of 1953 progresses, several events occur. First, her mother begins dating the milkman, and, when Penny's arm goes through the wringer on the washing machine, things come to a head. Finally, the secrets behind her father's death come out. Aunt Gina tells her about a minor incident that had horrifying consequences for him because of the restrictions placed on Italian Americans during World War II. Penny and her world are clearly drawn and eminently believable, made up of seamlessly interwoven details from everyday life. The period is lovingly re-created, from the fear of catching polio to Penny's use of the word "swell." An author's note with photos is included. Recommend this novel to readers who enjoyed Ann M. Martin's A Corner of the Universe (Scholastic, 2002) for another intricate picture of a girl with knotty ties to an imperfect family in a not-too-distant past.-Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

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