cover image Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful

Laurel Snyder, illus. by Abigail Halpin, Random, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-375-86199-4

Snyder's (Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains) coming-of-age novel addresses economic upheaval and building relationships from a refreshingly positive perspective. Ten-year-old Penelope Grey has a contagious appetite for adventure. She lives in a city mansion with kind but often absent parents, and although "Penelope knew she had nothing to complain about," she one day makes a wish for an "everything change," hoping to conjure up some of the magic that she reads about in her beloved books (Snyder plugs The Little Princess and The Penderwicks, among others). When her father spontaneously quits his job, the family can no longer afford their lifestyle and, coincidentally, are suddenly able to move into an inherited house in rural Thrush Junction, Tenn. There, Penelope encounters unusual neighbors, including scrappy Luella and ex-vaudevillian Down-Betty, all the while wondering if this was the change she was looking for. Snyder's characters are well-developed and endearing, and the author strikes an excellent balance between the reality of the Greys' financial straits and the quiet magic that everyday life has to offer. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)