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Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Penny from Heaven (2006)

by Jennifer L. Holm

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Set in 1953 New Jersey, this book is the story of a half-Italian girl being raised, on the one hand, by her widowed mother and native-born American grandparents, and on the other hand, by her late father's large, raucous and slightly eccentric Italian family. (Not that her mother's family isn't a little eccentric too!) Without giving away the plot completely, I must say that one thing I learned was that Italian-Americans (particularly those who were born in Italy) also faced discrimination and internment during World War II. Even growing up in Connecticut among many Italian-Americans, I had not realized this. Penny has many things in common with young people of today, such as dealing with her mother's starting to date, the beginnings of her own attraction to a boy, etc.; but she also has to face over-protectiveness due to the fear of polio, and eventually an injury that few children nowadays would be exposed to. The book started a little slowly and when I got to the uncle who lived in his car (in his mother's backyard) I was thinking, "Oh, not more wacky eccentrics!" but the story picked up fast and I raced through to the satisfying ending. I think it will give a good picture of life in the early 50's to children of today. Highly recommended. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
A slow starter, but very enjoyable. The weakest I think of this year's Newbery bunch, but still very good. The style reminds me of Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder. ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book is about a girl named Penny who has alot of problems, her mother is afraid to allow her to do things because she thinks she will get sick. This book presents real life events for children and people. Her father is dead but no one wants to tell her the truth.

Personal Reaction

This book is for any family who is going through hard times, and they need something or someone to identify with. This family is good for sharing with a child a death of a love one. And it shows that all families have problems and are not perfect.

Classroom Extension

1. Have children to act out a play - someone can be Penny, her mother and her friend.

2. Have children to come up with ideas for the summer

3. Have children to come up with a special day for Penny
  sharon65 | Mar 30, 2013 |
Review: A look into the summer the year Penny turns 12. Hopefully for a fun summer, Penny learns big lessons that things do not always go the way you want. Hopes of swimming and going to the movies are dashed by an overprotective single mother who fears polio. Penny spends the summer working at her Uncle's shop and hanging out with her father's family in hopes of knowing him more. Tragedy strikes though and Penny ends up in the hospital and she ends up learning more about her family then she ever thought she would.

Personal: I really enjoyed this book. It made me though want to call my mother towards the end because I could not believe that parts of the book were based on true events that happened around the US back during the mid 1950's. I think it is really important for our future that stories like this are told.

Classroom Extension: 1. Make homemade Butter Pecan ice cream (following directions, measurements). 2. In small groups research what it took to become a US citizen back during this time.
  DonnaKLewis | Nov 25, 2012 |
A little slow at first this historical novel is a carefully woven story that depicts a preteen girl, Penny, as she wrestles with the absence of a dead father, being reared by a working single mother and aging grandparents, and dealing with her mother's dating and remarrying. The historical and cultural setting paints a picture of a large Italian family who had immigrated to the US and then suffered during WWII just because they were Italian. How they would not teach the children their language but made them speak only English. At the end of the book Penny learns that her father died at an internment camp, imprisoned a a spy without evidence except that he owned a sophisticated radio.
  SHeineke | Jun 12, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jennifer L. Holmprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sealey, AmberReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...Every time it rains it rains

Pennies from heaven.

Don't you know each cloud contains

Pennies from heaven.

You'll find your fortune falling

All over town.

Be sure that your umbrella is upside down.

Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers.

If you want the things you love

You must have showers.

So when you hear it thunder

Don't run under a tree.

There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me.

--"Pennies from Heaven" by Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston
For our Henry, the best fella ever
First words
Me-me says that Heaven is full of fluffy white clouds and angels. That sounds pretty swell, but how can you sit on a cloud?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375836896, Paperback)

It’s1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing’s that easy in Penny’s family. For starters, she can’t go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father’s 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 America’s history, not all that long ago, when being Italian meant that you were the enemy. But most of all, it’s 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!

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:39 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

As she turns twelve during the summer of 1953, Penny gains new insights into herself and her family while also learning a secret about her father's death.

» see all 3 descriptions

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