Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm – Newbery Honor
April 24, 2011
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm is a beautifully written novel. Set in the early 1950’s, the story depicts the life of Barbara Ann Falucci, lovingly nicknamed, “Penny,” by her deceased father, who was a huge fan of Bing Crosby as well as his song, “Pennies from Heaven.” Penny lives with her widowed mother and her maternal grandparents, but loves to spend time with her father’s Italian family. Sadly for Penny, the two families do not get along or even speak to one another, for that matter. Holm’s novel takes a look into Penny’s life during the summer of her 12th birthday. Penny is mostly concerned with baseball, spending time with her cousin Frankie who aspires to be a criminal like his father, and her obsession with butter-pecan ice cream. Penny’s summer is filled with a whirlwind of events from her mother starting a relationship with the milkman to Penny getting her arm caught in a wringer. Penny struggles with her father’s loss and the mystery of his death, which nobody speaks of, as well as not even being able to go swimming, because her mother is afraid she may catch polio. Did I mention that Penny’s favorite, very eccentric uncle is living in his car? This heartwarming, yet often comical novel is full of historical accuracies, which truly brings the story to life.
I absolutely loved this book! The day-to-day life of Penny Falucci is fascinating and full of surprises. Although the first half of the book moves rather slowly, I didn’t want to put it down once Penny got her arm caught in the wringer. Each page left me wanting more! Another reason I loved this story was because it made reference to WWII. Anything about WWII interests me, because my grandfather fought for our country at that time.
I just have to include my favorite quote from the book: “My idea of Heaven has nothing to do with clouds or angels. In my Heaven there’s butter pecan ice cream and swimming pools and baseball games. The Brooklyn Dodgers always win, and I have the best seat in the house, right behind the Dodgers’ dugout. That’s the only advantage that I can see to being dead: You get the best seat in the house.” – Penny Falucci
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