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Penny from Heaven (Newbery Honor Book) Hardcover – July 25, 2006

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Series: Newbery Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (July 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037583687X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375836879
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,904,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7–Penny Falucci, 11, lives with her widowed mother and maternal grandparents, but her father's large, Italian family is tremendously important to her, too. It frustrates her that no one talks about his death, but as the summer of 1953 progresses, several events occur. First, her mother begins dating the milkman, and, when Penny's arm goes through the wringer on the washing machine, things come to a head. Finally, the secrets behind her father's death come out. Aunt Gina tells her about a minor incident that had horrifying consequences for him because of the restrictions placed on Italian Americans during World War II. Penny and her world are clearly drawn and eminently believable, made up of seamlessly interwoven details from everyday life. The period is lovingly re-created, from the fear of catching polio to Penny's use of the word swell. An author's note with photos is included. Recommend this novel to readers who enjoyed Ann M. Martin's A Corner of the Universe (Scholastic, 2002) for another intricate picture of a girl with knotty ties to an imperfect family in a not-too-distant past.–Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Penny lives with her "plain old American" mother and grandparents, but she has an open invitation to visit her deceased father's Italian family, where the delicious aromas are as inviting as the boisterous relatives who welcome her. Against the backdrop of these contrasting 1950s households, the author of Newbery Honor Book Our Only May Amelia (1999) charts the summer of Penny's twelfth birthday, marked by hapless episodes as well as serious tensions arising from the estranged families' refusal to discuss her father's death. Penny is a low-key character, often taking a backseat role in escapades with high-spirited cousin Frankie. However, Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy in this coming-of-age story, populated by a cast of vivid characters (a burping, farting grandpa; an eccentric uncle who lives in his car--"not exactly normal for people in New Jersey"). Concluding with a photo-illustrated endnote explaining Holm's inspirations in family history, this languidly paced novel will appeal most to readers who appreciate gentle, episodic tales with a nostalgic flavor. Hand selling may be necessary to overcome the staid jacket illustration. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children's author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series -- the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. She is also the author of several other highly praised books, including the Boston Jane trilogy and MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

For more information, visit her website at

Customer Reviews

Every sentence and character sparkled with creativity and originality!
Brooke Lonex
She has a summer job and is getting into more and more trouble with her cousin Frankie.
E. R. Bird
This book was an easy read and just made me feel good after reading it.
Kelli Peters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I work with four other children's librarians in New York City's finest public children's literature collection. One day a co-worker begins to tell me about "Penny From Heaven". She loves it. She adores it. She cannot get enough of it and here, take a copy, cause it's a wonderful wonderful title. I look at it. It's by Jennifer L. Holm, best known at this particular moment in time as the author of "Our Only May Amelia". Holm is one of those rare authors that write a first novel and knock it clean out of the park. Though I never read it, "Amelia" garnered itself some pretty fancy awards, including a highly coveted Newbery Honor. As with every first novelist though, it takes a second and third novel to determine whether or not that author is a star or a one-hit-wonder. At this moment in time, certain librarians all around the country are weeping, laughing, and shrieking in joy over "Penny From Heaven". And admittedly, it is quite a good read.

Penny doesn't have a father, but she has the next best thing. A gigantic Italian-American family with more uncles than she can count and more love than she knows what to do with. When Penny's mother married into the Falucci clan it was a classic case of a WASP out of place. After her father's death, her mother and grandparents do not mingle with her dad's crew and vice-versa. Now Penny's about to turn twelve and all sorts of interesting things are happening. She's beginning to notice boys and to chafe under her mother's overprotective nature. She has a summer job and is getting into more and more trouble with her cousin Frankie. Her dog dies, her hair gets paint stuck in it, and her mother has started to date the least cool fellow in the world: the milkman.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Herold on November 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Two things struck me as I read Jennifer L. Holm's latest novel, "Penny From Heaven." The first is that I can't believe the 1950s are History (with a capital H). When I was a kid, we dressed up for 50s day or for Halloween to make fun of our parents. To make fun of me, my kids are going to have to dress like Depeche Mode or Madonna or the like. The second thing, most relevant to the following review, is that "Penny From Heaven" is a story that really sneaks up on you. It starts out quietly and then, wow...hang on for the ride!

Eleven-year-old Penny's summer begins as most summers have before. She lives at home with her mother and grandparents. The house is quiet, mom works long hours as a secretary, and Penny's grandparents are slightly eccentric. Me-me (Grandma) is kind, but a horrible cook who favors wholesome "American" food like meatloaf and liver. Pop-pop (Grandpa) is given to inappropriate comments and overestimating his plumbing abilities.

Fortunately, Penny has her deceased father's siblings, cousins, mothers, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles to spoil her, feed her, and employ her in the family store. They're a large, Italian-American family with lots of love, food, kids and quarrels. But the Faluccis have something in common with Penny's other family--they won't tell her the secret about her father's death. Everyone--from her mom's family to her father's--gives Penny a vague answer: Penny's father died in a hospital.

Penny spends her summer hanging out, playing baseball, and delivering groceries with her cousin and best friend, Frankie, a twelve-year-old boy on the verge of real trouble with the law. She's having a good time until something dramatic happens. Her mother begins dating. And not just anybody...She begins dating Mr. Mulligan, the milkman.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader VINE VOICE on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Penny from Heaven is one of the most comforting books I have enjoyed in a long time. The cover art echoes the time period of the 1950s. Penny is a beloved child. Her father is dead and no one will really explain the circumstances surrounding his death but she is surrounded by an extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles who love her and care for her. She and her Uncle Dominic share a passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Her slightly deliquent cousin Frankie is her best friend. Her dog, Scarlett O'Hara is a un-house-broken-nightmare.

When her mother begins dating again, Penny's secure world begins to tilt. A terrible accident brings family secrets to light but then allows Penny and her mother to move on.

This is not a novel with sweeping action sequences. It is a warm and gentle read about family.

Fans of books like Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising and Holm's earlier book, Our Only May Amelia will especially enjoy this read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on October 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Penny from Heaven is set in 1953 in a neighborhood somewhere near New York City. It's the story of Penny Falucci, who turns 12 that summer. Penny's story is based on tales from Jennifer Holm's Italian-American relatives, and carries a ring of authenticity. Penny's father died when she was a baby, under mysterious circumstances, and she lives with her mother and "plain old American" grandparents. She also spends time with her father's large, boisterous Italian family. She is especially close to her engaging scamp of a cousin, Frankie, and her reclusive uncle Dominic (who lives primarily in his car, and wears bedroom slippers most of the time).

Penny lives in an oddly fractured world. Her life with her mother and grandparents is both different and separate from her time with her father's family. Her father's family is more colorful and lively, and the food that they eat is much, much tastier. And her uncles buy her presents all the time. There's a poignant scene in which her Uncle Dominic gives her Dodgers tickets for the game on her birthday (her first game ever), and she begs off of her mother's carefully planned celebration. What's wonderful about the scene is that Jennifer Holm conveys both Penny's 12-year-old longing and excitement, and her mother's wistful resignation.

I'm not generally a fan of stories that are episode driven, rather than being plot-driven. However, I will make exceptions for characters that I really like (e.g Anne of Green Gables), and/or truly excellent writing (e.g. the Melendy books by Elizabeth Enright). Both of these exceptions (engaging writing and characterization) apply to Penny from Heaven.
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