Select one of the keywords
Penny from Heaven    by Jennifer Holm order for
Penny from Heaven
by Jennifer Holm
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

After reaching the end of Jennifer Holm's Penny from Heaven, I found myself wishing that in my lifetime I had an Uncle Dominic, Uncle Nunzio, an Aunt Gina, a Nonny, a Pop-pop and Me-me, a cousin Frankie, and the rest of the great characters in this book. Plus, a doctor who is a Gregory Peck look-alike!

In the summer of 1953, Penny Falucci has her dreams - turning twelve, butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the home of Dem Bums - the Dodgers. But Mom's fear of polio prevents Penny from swimming in a public pool. Penny's father died some time ago, and she hasn't been told how or why. Penny does know that her father adored Bing Crosby's singing, and Aunt Gina used to dance with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, plus the uncles are big-time Dodger baseball fans.

The two sides of the family don't talk with each other. However, both families shower Penny with love. She lives with her Mom, Pop-pop and Me-me, but often sees her Italian relatives (including colorful Uncle Dominic who lives in his 1940 Plymouth Roadking), especially for Sunday dinner. Uncle Nunzio owns a clothing factory, so each year Penny gets to choose the winter coat she wants, muff, hat, and all.

Cousin Frankie (about the same age as Penny) has a wild imagination, stimulated when he overhears the uncles talking about deceased grandpa Falucci's hidden treasure. Frankie and Penny share adventures when they are hired by Uncle Ralphie to deliver groceries from his butcher shop. The biggest deal is when Penny learns about the internment of Italian-Americans during World War II, as she wonders how come the Italians were on our side during World War I but not in WW II,

It takes a tragic accident to bring the two families together, and Penny is finally told the truth about her father's death, why he's not buried in the Catholic cemetery, and about President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of Proclamation 2527, 'designating six hundred thousand non-naturalized Italians 'enemy aliens'.' Penny gets to a Dodgers game at Ebbets, sneaks in a swim at a public pool with Frankie, and learns Pop-pop's take on death: 'We're all going to die ... I'm planning on dropping dead next week. That way I don't have to wear a necktie to that social with your grandmother.'

Jennifer Holm won a Newbery Honor for Our Only May Amelia. She writes refreshingly of other days and times, filled with family relationships, lazy summer days, and the joys, sadness, and humor of life. In an Author's Note, she writes, 'Although this book is a work of fiction, it was inspired by many stories from my Italian American family ... the Penny naming story is a family legend.'

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Kids books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews