Synopses & Reviews
It's 1953, and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothings that easy in Pennys family. For starters, she cant go swimming because her mothers afraid shell catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her fathers name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren't speaking to each other!
Inspired by Newbery Honor winner Jennifer Holm's own Italian American family, Penny from Heaven is a shining story about the everyday and the extraordinary, about a time in Americas history, not all that long ago, when being Italian meant that you were the enemy. But most of all, its a story about families about the things that tear them apart and bring them together. And Holm tells it with all the richness and the layers, the love and the laughter of a Sunday dinner at Nonny's. So pull up a chair and enjoy the feast! Buon appetito!
"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." School Library Journal
"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." Booklist
"Penny's present-tense narration is both earthy and observant, and her commentary on her families' eccentricities sparkles." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Jennifer L. Holm is the author of several highly praised novels, including Our Only May Amelia
and the Babymouse
series. She lives in Fallston, Maryland, with her husband, Jonathan Hamel, their son Will, and a rather large cat named Princess Leia.
From the Trade Paperback edition.