cover image Penny from Heaven

Penny from Heaven

Jennifer L. Holm, . . Random, $15.95 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-375-93687-6

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.)