Penny from Heaven

by Jennifer L. Holm

Eleven-year-old Penny is spending the summer of 1953 following the Brooklyn Dodgers,... read more

Eleven-year-old Penny is spending the summer of 1953 following the Brooklyn Dodgers, hanging out with her mischievous best friend, Frankie, and going back and forth between the two disparate sides of her family. She lives with her quiet mother and maternal grandparents, and regularly visits her boisterous paternal grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Since her father died when she was very young, Penny has relied on his huge and loving Italian American family to keep his memory alive for her. After her mother starts dating the milkman of all people, Penny’s feelings of confusion and uncertainty begin to boil over. Why won’t her mother talk about her father? In the aftermath of an accident, Penny finds herself the center of attention from both sides of the family. During her recovery, a painful truth is finally revealed: like several thousand other non-naturalized Italians in the United States, her father was arrested during World War II, labeled an “enemy alien” because of his heritage. He died while imprisoned. The revelation of this family secret makes way for new understanding and deeper bonds in Jennifer Holm’s sparkling novel. Holm’s narrative comes alive with seamlessly woven details that firmly establish the time, setting, and lively characters of a story that is based in part on her own mother’s history. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2007

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