Eleven-year-old Penny’s life is full of contrasts. In a way she has two families. She lives with her mother and grandparents, but she also spends a lot of time with her father’s family. Penny’s father died years ago, and all she knows was that he died from some sickness.
At home with her mother Penny has to deal with her grandmother’s horrible cooking, her grandfather’s bad manners and old war stories, and the disgusting family dog, who is losing bladder control and makes messes constantly. Penny’s mother won’t even let her go swimming because she is afraid that Penny will catch polio at the pool.
When Penny goes to visit her other grandparents, though, everything is different. Her father’s side of the family is Italian, and they always welcome her with open arms, and plenty of deliciously rich Italian food. Her uncles all have interesting personalities, and give her gifts.
The two sides of Penny’s family don’t speak to each other much, even though Penny goes to visit her father’s family almost every day. Penny wishes that she could bring them together again, but she doesn’t know how to do it. And in the meantime, Penny’s mother is dating the milkman!
I felt that “Penny from Heaven” was a touching book. Jennifer Holm shows Penny going back and forth between her mother’s family and her father’s family. In some chapters everything seems to go wonderfully, and Penny is very happy. But in the next chapter disaster strikes. The back and forth swinging becomes more and more acute until the story’s ultimate climax.
The characters in “Penny from Heaven” are sensitive, with very real emotions. It is interesting to see the world of the 1950’s through their eyes. Small details such as the fear over polio and listening to The Shadow on the radio add to the flavor of the story.
I enjoyed reading “Penny from Heaven” and I’m sure that other young readers will as well.
Inkweaver Book Rating: