Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm, for MMGM

As it happens, my September books have a WWII focus…which I suppose would make more sense in November, because of Veteran’s Day. However, today is also September 11th, which is a day of special import to me and I know to many others, and I think a good day to remember both the cost of freedom, and the importance of remembering who this country belongs to–which is all of us.

I’m pleased to share with you today Penny from Heaven, another lovely middle grade by Jennifer L. Holm!

Cover Penny From Heaven

This was one of those stories that simply demanded I read it. First the cover pulled me in. Then it hooked me further when I realized it’s one of Jennifer’s books. You might remember that I spotlighted Full of Beans almost a year ago, and loved it! However, I was super busy with other books at the time I brought home Penny from Heaven, and so told myself I should set it aside and read later. I actually tried twice to put it away so I could meet other book deadlines. But each time, Penny reeled me back in, and I ended up reading double-time instead!

One of things which I was surprised by…and which I feel squirmy about admitting…is I had no idea there were Italian-Americans placed in camps during WWII, or that Italians experienced suspicion and discrimination to the extent the book shows. Of course now that feels like a duh, but without reading this book, I don’t know if/when I would have realized this!

For that reason I really believe this book would make for an excellent discussion of war time fears, here in America, and the paranoia which can snowball over small things. However, I also feel that many kids would love reading this book simply because it’s a story about a girl who’s growing up non-to-gracefully, and uncovering the truth about her family and who she is while she’s at it. I loved the way Penny’s growth throughout the book, and Frankie’s too, was driven and informed by their mistakes. I also loved the way that personal details of Penny’s life–like her struggle to accept her new soon-to-be stepfather–were woven into the mystery elements. There was never the feeling that we had more than one story going on, despite the disparate elements of the book. Instead the story had a complexity beyond its appearance, and a thoroughly enjoyable depth.

Another thing I found intriguing were the historic details–like the focus on polio. My grandmother died of polio when my mom was four, but somehow despite that, people’s fear of the disease has always felt to me like it must have belonged to a totally different time period in history. I didn’t associate it with people who drove to the beach, swam in community pools, and (later in the story) watched the baseball game on TV. That felt much more modern than I was expecting.

All in all, I felt this was a wonderful book, and I’m so grateful it insisted I read it when it did! Now let’s hear Apricot-kitty share her two cents:

Apricot Headshot evil eye“That Penny should have stuck out her claws and sent her cousin packing, right from the first page! Just look at how many weeks Penny was stuck in a hospital, because of him! I’m all for naps, but even I would get restless if cooped up for that long. That boy was nothing but trouble!”




She makes a good point! Frankie is okay by the end, and adults will readily sympathize with his situation, but he doesn’t exactly have a positive influence on Penny’s life. However, that too makes for a great learning point, since even Penny learns to say no to his schemes by the end of the book.

Stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts, and come back this very next week for my spotlight on Mari’s Hope, as part of Sandy Brehl‘s book launch blog tour, and have a wonderful week!




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