Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
PENNY FROM HEAVEN, a new offering by author Jennifer L. Holm, is an excellent pick for middle grade readers. Set in the early 1950's, it tells a story of everyday life and rich Italian heritage.
Penny lives with her mother and her grandparents. At the start of the novel, she's almost twelve. Most of her time is spent hanging out in the neighborhood with her cousin and best friend, Frankie.
Bike riding would be fun, but Penny's bike was unfortunately backed over in the driveway. Going swimming in the city pool or taking in an afternoon matinee sounds like quality entertainment, but Penny's mom believes those places are breeding grounds for the dreaded polio everyone seems to be contracting. That doesn't leave much to do, but Penny and Frankie always seem to find something to get into. It might be an attempt to fix the leaky toilet that turns into a major repair job, or the secret mission to discover if great-grandma Nonny wears black underwear to match her old-fashioned black dresses.
Penny is surrounded by tons of Italian aunts and uncles, but she misses her father. His death years ago is still shrouded in mystery, one that Penny seems unable to uncover. Her mother is becoming interested in Mr. Mulligan, the milkman. Penny's attempts to pair her mother up with favorite Uncle Dominic fail miserably.
Day-to-day life is pretty predictable for Penny and her family until the unthinkable happens. After a tragic accident, Penny finds herself making plans for a very different life. Readers' emotions will be tested as Penny's story unfolds.
Jennifer L. Holm is also known for Newbery Honor book OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA and her BOSTON JANE series, which is my personal favorite.