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Penny from Heaven
     

Penny from Heaven

4.6 127
by Jennifer L. Holm
 

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Jennifer Holm's New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor Winner is the story of a summer of adventures and secrets that will change everything, at a time in America’s history, just after World War II, when being Italian-American meant confronting prejudice because you'd been the enemy not that long ago .

It’s 1953 and 11-year-old

Overview

Jennifer Holm's New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor Winner is the story of a summer of adventures and secrets that will change everything, at a time in America’s history, just after World War II, when being Italian-American meant confronting prejudice because you'd been the enemy not that long ago .

It’s 1953 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 dog, Scarlett O'Hara, is sick. Her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her best friend is turning into a criminal. And no one will tell Penny the truth about how her father died. 

Inspired by three time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer Holm’s own Italian American family, Penny from Heaven is a story about families—about the things that tear them apart and the things that bring them back together.

Includes an Author's Note with photographs and additional background on World War II, Internment camps and 1950s America, as well as additional resources and websites.

Booklist:
"Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy in this coming-of-age story, populated by a cast of vivid characters."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A youthful voice serves Sealey well as narrator of this offbeat period piece chronicling the colorful experiences of 11-year-old Penny Falucci during the summer of 1953. Penny plans to have a dream summer vacation spending time at the local pool, eating butter pecan ice cream and listening to her beloved Brooklyn Dodgers on the radio with one of her many uncles or cousins. But not all happens according to plan when she suffers a devastating household accident. As Penny struggles to recover, she learns an ugly truth about her father's death years ago and comes to understand the estrangement between her mother's family and her father's boisterous Italian clan. Holm's plot has surprising twists and turns and plenty of evocative flavor, all of which give Sealey room to stretch a bit. Her crisp, even rhythm complements the pace of the unfolding drama. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Penny has heard two different theories about her name. One is that her father's favorite song was Bing Crosby's "Pennies from Heaven." The other is that Penny, whose real name is Barbara, was called Penny after her dying father said, "That baby is like a lost penny I'll never hold. A lost penny." Sometimes the appropriate name has a way of attaching itself onto an individual no matter what name may be on a birth certificate. Newbery Honor writer Holm has penned a compelling book about a twelve-year-old growing up and finding her place in the larger scheme of things in 1953 New Jersey. She has also introduced the young adult reader to a little-known injustice during World War II: the registration and labeling of Italians living in the USA as "enemy aliens," the prohibition against their living in costal zones, and even the imprisonment of these people if they were caught speaking or writing Italian or even owning a radio capable of short wave communication. Penny is an enchanting character. She is a fiercely loyal Brooklyn Dodgers fan, calling them, "Dem Bums," she'll avoid her maternal grandmother's cooking as much as she will salivate over her paternal grandmother's Ricotta-ball soup and pasteria. Her mother, a nurse, refuses to let her go to the public swimming pool or the movies because of the polio scare. Penny endures these restrictions but she demands to know the truth about her father, whom no one will talk about. Penny's life is full of family. Her cousin, Frankie, is her best friend, she lives with her mother and maternal grandparents in one house and spends much of her time with her father's family just blocks away. These two worlds are very different and veryseparate, but they are forced to come together when Penny is seriously injured by a washing machine wringer. Holm's writing is warm and fine; reading this book is as good as time travel into the life of the 1950s. A real treat awaits the reader at the book's end when the author writes about loosely basing Penny on her mother, complete with family pictures, a photo of the old Ebbets Field, plus a picture example of the records kept on Italian Americans during the World War.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Take a trip back to 1953 in Jennifer L. Holm's charming story (Random, 2006). Eleven-year-old Penny lives in New Jersey and walks a tightrope between two families. On one side are her widowed mother, her irascible grandfather, and her cooking-disabled grandmother with whom she lives. On the other side are her deceased father's Italian family with an abundance of loving aunts and uncles and a Nonny who makes the best cannoli around. The two families don't interact and Penny understands it has something to do with her father's death, but nobody will talk about it. Penny's biggest problems this summer are convincing her mother she won't catch polio from the community pool, keeping her cousin Frankie from scrapes with the law, and discouraging the milkman from courting her mother. Told in vignette style, Amber Sealey's narration enhances the telling. She effortlessly slips in and out of voices ranging from a young girl, a mischievous boy, a sobbing Italian grandmother, and a Brooklyn inflection that would make Tony Soprano proud. Inspired by the author's Italian-American family, the plot is a bit weak, but warmth and humor abound.-Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Penny, almost 12, is caught between two extremes: her mother's small, uptight, WASP family, and her dead father's large, exuberant, Italian one. Summers, she moves freely between them, mediating as best she can between the two. Her best pal is her cousin Frankie, with whom she delivers groceries from her uncle's store, worships at the shrine of the Brooklyn Dodgers and gets into trouble. No one talks about her father's absence, and that's beginning to bother her more and more. And even worse, her mother has begun dating the milkman. Holm has crafted a leisurely, sprawling period piece, set in the 1950s and populated by a large cast of offbeat characters. Penny's present-tense narration is both earthy and observant, and her commentary on her families' eccentricities sparkles. Various scrapes and little tragedies lead to a nearly catastrophic encounter with a clothes wringer and finally the truth about her father's death. It takes so long to get there that the revelation seems rather anticlimactic, but getting to know Penny and her families makes the whole eminently worthwhile. (Fiction. 9-13)
From the Publisher
"Penny and her world are clearly drawn and eminently believable."—School Library Journal

"Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy in this coming-of-age story, populated by a cast of vivid characters."—Booklist

"Penny's present-tense narration is both earthy and observant, and her commentary on her families' eccentricities sparkles."—Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780756982065
Publisher:
Random House Childrens Books
Publication date:
09/01/2007
Pages:
274
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Penny from Heaven


By Jennifer Holm

Random House Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2006 Jennifer Holm
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375836879

CHAPTER ONE

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? Wouldn’t you fall right through and smack onto the ground? Like Frankie always says, angels have wings, so what do they have to worry about?

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.

I think about Heaven a lot. Not because of the usual reasons, though. I’m only eleven, and I don’t plan on dying until I’m at least a hundred. It’s just that I’m named after that Bing Crosby song “Pennies from Heaven,” and when you’re named after something, you can’t help but think about it.

See, my father was crazy about Bing Crosby, and that’s why everyone calls me Penny instead of Barbara Ann Falucci, which is what’s on my birth certificate. No one ever calls me Barbara, except teachers, and sometimes even I forget that it’s my real name.

Iguess it could be worse. I could be called Clementine, which was the name of another Bing Crosby song that my father really liked. I don’t think I’d make a very good Clementine.

Then again, who would?

CHAPTER TWO

Uncle Dominic is sitting in his car. It’s a 1940 Plymouth Roadking. It’s black with chrome trim, and the hubcaps are so shiny, you could use them as a mirror. Uncle Dominic pays my cousin Frankie to shine them up. It’s an awfully nice car; everybody says so. But then, it’s kind of hard to miss. It’s been parked in the side yard of my grandmother Falucci’s house for as long as I can remember.

Uncle Dominic lives right there in his car. Nobody in the family thinks it’s weird that Uncle Dominic lives in his car, or if they do, nobody ever says anything. It’s 1953, and it’s not exactly normal for people in New Jersey to live in cars. Most people around here live in houses. But Uncle Dominic’s kind of a hermit. He also likes to wear slippers instead of shoes. Once I asked him why.

“They’re comfortable,” he said.

Besides living in the car and wearing slippers, Uncle Dominic’s my favorite uncle, and I have a lot of uncles. Sometimes I lose track of them.

“Hey, Princess,” Uncle Dominic calls. I lean through the window and hear the announcer on the portable radio. Uncle Dominic likes to listen to ball games in the car. There’s a pillow and a ratty-looking blanket on the backseat. Uncle Dominic says the car’s the only place he can get any rest. He has a lot of trouble falling asleep.

“Hi, Uncle Dominic,” I say.

“Game’s on,” he says.

I start to open the back door, but Uncle Dominic says, “You can sit up front.”

Uncle Dominic’s very particular about who’s allowed to sit in his car. Most people have to sit in the back, although Uncle Nunzio always sits up front. I don’t think anyone ever tells Uncle Nunzio what to do.

“Who’s winning?” I ask.

“Bums are ahead.”

I love the Brooklyn Dodgers, and so does Uncle Dominic. We call them Dem Bums. Most people around here like the New York Yankees or the Giants, but not us. Uncle Dominic is staring out the window, like he’s really in the ballpark and watching the game from the bleachers. He’s handsome, with dark hair and brown eyes. Everyone says he looks just like my father. I don’t remember my father because he died when I was just a baby, but I’ve seen photographs, and Uncle Dominic does look like him, except sadder.

“Got something for you,” Uncle Dominic says.

All my uncles give me presents. Uncle Nunzio gives me fur muffs, and Uncle Ralphie gives me candy, and Uncle Paulie brings me fancy perfumes, and Uncle Sally gives me horseshoes. It’s like Christmas all the time.

Uncle Dominic hands me something that looks like a big dark-brown bean.

“What is it?”

“It’s a lucky bean,” he says. Uncle Dominic is superstitious. “Just found it this morning. It was packed away with some old things. I got it for your father before he died, but I never had a chance to give it to him. I want you to have it.”

“Where’d you get it?” I ask.

“Florida,” he says.

Uncle Dominic loves Florida and goes to Vero Beach every winter, probably because it’s too cold to live in the car then. Even though he lives in this car, he has another car that he uses for driving, a 1950 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Frankie says he bets Uncle Dominic has a girl down in Florida, but I kind of don’t think so. Most women want a new Frigidaire, not a backseat.

“Put it in your pocket,” he says. “It’ll keep you safe.”

The lucky bean is big and lumpy. It feels heavy, not the kind of thing to put in a pocket, but Uncle Dominic has this look about his eyes like he might just die if I don’t, and because he is my favorite uncle, I do what I always do.

I smile and say, “Thanks, Uncle Dominic.” For a moment the strain leaves his eyes.

“Anything for you, Princess,” he says. “Anything.”

Continues...

Excerpted from Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Holm. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

JENNIFER L. HOLM is the New York Times bestselling author of three Newbery Honor Books, as well as the co-creator of the Babymouse and Squish series which she collaborates on with her brother Matthew Holm.

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Penny from Heaven 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 127 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book!! It was so good! It was an easy book to read yet it was very descriptive and very easy to understand. This book made me laugh and it even made me cry in some parts! (which for me is very hard to do) And most important it was very educational. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone from an Italian family, and even if you are not Italian, I think you would still LOVE this book like I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really good! I am currently reading it and I am at the end! It gets better and better as you get farther into the book! The author perfectly expresses the different emotions of each character. As I was reading, I could hear the Italian accents in my head!
east_side_bees More than 1 year ago
In this book, a girl named Penny lives with her maternal grandparents, her mother, and an un-housebroken poodle named Scarlet O'Hara in 1953.Penny's father died when she was very young. Although her father died, she still visits her father's Italian family. Penny has a hard time dealing with her father's death. Her mother is very protective over Penny.Over the summer,Penny really wants to go to the pool,but her mother is afraid she will get polio.Penny has always wondered why her father died, and in the book, her curiosity grows, especially because the two families cannot get along.Penny works in her uncle's butcher shop with her cousin, Frankie. Frankie is Penny's best friend. The story tells about many interesting adventures they get into, including an accident that sends Penny to the hospital. Both sides of her family visit her while she is in the hospital, and they tell her stories about her father that gives her clues about his death. I think this book is very good and it is funny as well as interesting. I would recommend this book to any of my friends.This book is not that thrilling at first but as you get into the book, it gets more and more exciting.I think the author of this book did a great job at keeping the reader interested while making them laugh at the same time.
TaylorB29 More than 1 year ago
This story is set in 1953 New Jersey. This has an effect on this story because of the characters. Penny, the main character, is a young girl that is EASILY relatable to, as are her crazy Italian family from her father's side of the family, who all treat Penny like a princess. I root for Penny as she undergoes a character development. All the characters talk as a normal or very busy and crazy, family would. Penny lives with her loud and very opinionated Pop-Pop, Me-Me, a widowed Mother, and the naughty Scarlett O' Hara, the house dog. She has tons of very unique uncles and trying to grow up and live is all Penny wants. There's much mystery in the finding out of information of her much missed father, Alfredo, or Freddy. You'll be filled with suspense to see what happens when Cousin Frankie and Penny get mischievous. The overall theme is familiar, but with a very fresh twist. The main theme here is: "Everything will be just fine"-also, "Friends are God's way of apologizing for your family."
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very good. If you are interested in a story that tells about a family this book will be the one for you now I don't want to ruin it for you, but this book is very good. You should go now and buy it!
samSL More than 1 year ago
This story is set in 1953 New Jersey. This has an effect on this story because of the characters. Penny, the main character, is a young girl that is EASILY relatable to, as are her crazy Italian family from her father's side of the family, who all treat Penny like a princess. I root for Penny as she undergoes a character development. All the characters talk as a normal or very busy and crazy, family would. Penny lives with her loud and very opinionated Pop-Pop, Me-Me, a widowed Mother, and the naughty Scarlett O' Hara, the house dog. She has tons of very unique uncles and trying to grow up and live is all Penny wants. There's much mystery in the finding out of information of her much missed father, Alfredo, or Freddy. You'll be filled with suspense to see what happens when Cousin Frankie and Penny get mischievous. The overall theme is familiar, but with a very fresh twist. The main theme here is: "Everything will be just fine"-also, "Friends are God's way of apologizing for your family."
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
PENNY FROM HEAVEN, a new offering by author Jennifer L. Holm, is an excellent pick for middle grade readers. Set in the early 1950's, it tells a story of everyday life and rich Italian heritage.

Penny lives with her mother and her grandparents. At the start of the novel, she's almost twelve. Most of her time is spent hanging out in the neighborhood with her cousin and best friend, Frankie.

Bike riding would be fun, but Penny's bike was unfortunately backed over in the driveway. Going swimming in the city pool or taking in an afternoon matinee sounds like quality entertainment, but Penny's mom believes those places are breeding grounds for the dreaded polio everyone seems to be contracting. That doesn't leave much to do, but Penny and Frankie always seem to find something to get into. It might be an attempt to fix the leaky toilet that turns into a major repair job, or the secret mission to discover if great-grandma Nonny wears black underwear to match her old-fashioned black dresses.

Penny is surrounded by tons of Italian aunts and uncles, but she misses her father. His death years ago is still shrouded in mystery, one that Penny seems unable to uncover. Her mother is becoming interested in Mr. Mulligan, the milkman. Penny's attempts to pair her mother up with favorite Uncle Dominic fail miserably.

Day-to-day life is pretty predictable for Penny and her family until the unthinkable happens. After a tragic accident, Penny finds herself making plans for a very different life. Readers' emotions will be tested as Penny's story unfolds.

Jennifer L. Holm is also known for Newbery Honor book OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA and her BOSTON JANE series, which is my personal favorite.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a funny novel about an eleven year old girl,Penny, in the summer of 1953. Penny is living with her grandmother, her grandfather, her mother, and their un-housebroken dog, Scarlet O'Hara. Penny's father is dead and nobody will tell her the secret surrounding his death. Although Penny is lucky to have her deceased father's Italian-American family to spoil her, she still misses her Dad. The characters are well fleshed out and you get the feeling that you are there in 1953 in that car with Uncle Dominic or eating an authentic Italian meal with the family.The book is a snapshot of what it was like to be growing up in the 1950's. World War II is still affecting the family in that they only speak English in public. Penny cannot swim in a public pool for fear she will contact polio. The book is about the importance of family, friends and also contains a mystery about buried treasure as well as her father's death. This is a good read for Middle Schoolers with its quirky, yet realistic characters. I think young people can identify with the story today even though it is set in the 1950's. Read it. You will not be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Penny is an 11 year old girl who lives in New York in 1953. Her journey through the summer she turns 12 is humorous and sensitive. Penny lives with her mother and maternal grandparents. Her father died when she was a baby. Her father's family lives close by and neither family will talk about her father. She's not even sure how he died. During this particular summer she shares many exciting adventures with her cousin Frankie. He is a typical encourager of naughtiness!! He's fun-loving and Penny is very close to him and empathetic to his circumstances. This book is written authentically from a child's perspective and is entertaining from beginning to end. If you enjoy stories about family relationships and the things that hold them together AND break them apart...read Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm '2006'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ihave the book cover and its great so far im on page 92-95. My friend read it she said it was sad bit good at the same time i really like this book i havent been so obsessed with a book since i read snowfall i really LOVE this book and im only ten and i love reading so much and just for a ten year old im writing a story called The Detective its really good so far, anyway i really love Penny From Heaven its so good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How can there be so many 3/5s and 4/5s? This is an amazing book, and made my summer. Good for any reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This the best book you could ever read in tbis world it is heart warming and gives a very good lesson, two thumbs up! Would recommend it to anyone!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penny from heaven is a great book it keeps u intested the whole time. I love that the book was funny sad and eveything you would want to read in a book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With 21 chapters and156 pages PENNY FROM HEAVEN is the best book I have read. At one point I start crying and laugh at the same time. NO JOKE! I am a picky reader and I could not put this book down. You might be wondering, what is this amazing book about. Well, it is about a girl named Penny Falucci that grows up in the 1950s. With her father past away, she lives with her grandmother Me-Me, her grandfather Pa-Pa, and her mother. With her huge father's family she enjoys eating dinner and hangin' out. Both sides don't get along, but mean while Penny has many sad and fun adventures throught the book. I can't tell you, but trust me you will enjoy this book. READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penny from Heaven is an amazing book about a summer gone wrong. From from a leaky toilet to her mother dating the milkman, searching for underground (not buried) treasure to a misshap with the wringer, Penny is having a memorible summer, but not because it was happy. It was an amazing book. I would give it 6 stars if I could!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! Everyone should read this book! It gives you a true feeling of famly differculties. Before this book i thought that only my family had problems but now I see that other families are having way more differculties than me. This story goes from happy to sad in a matter of minutes. You must read this book! My teacher worked on a lot of projects for the United States having to do with reading and english and now she and I have read the book more than once and think that it is by sure the best book i and she has ever read. This book is also not just for girls, also for boys! If everyone would read this book the world would be way different!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please read this book and tell me how you like it!
bookworm123AL More than 1 year ago
There are many positives about this book. There were likable characters in the story such as Frankie and Uncle Dominic. Frankie was mischievous with a good sense of humor and a fun personality. Uncle Dominic treated Penny as if she were his own daughter. He made sure that Penny was happy. Also, the setting was in the 1950s and the author was very descriptive about this time period. "Penny from Heaven" was an easy to understand novel that many 12 year-olds would enjoy. However, this book requires patience because it did not grab the reader's attention right away. The story moved slowly. There were small things that happened to Penny but the ending was the most exciting. I would recommend this novel because it was interesting in some areas and it was easy to read and understand. This book is a Newbury Honor book which is a high award for children's books. The characters are funny and lovable and there is a happy ending. Most readers will like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Penny from Heaven takes place in 1953, just after World War 2. Penny is and 11 year-old who lives in New York with her mom and grandparents. After her father’s death her mom took on the responsibility of bringing money in, and her mom and dad’s side do not get along. While she struggles dealing with her families’ issues, she tries to find out the truth behind her father’s death. The book was easy to read through, the story flowed well, and it had a good plot. I wish we could have gotten to know her closest family members and friend more in depth, but it had a good storyline and I enjoyed that it was told from Penny’s perspective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where do I begin? This book is super! In a lot of ways, it resembles me! I come from a catholic family myself, though not Italian and I come from experience of my dog dying as well. I feel bad for Penny though, since she can't come into the pool. I love to swim! This is a great  book; even for adults!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eaeaeaeaeaaeaeaaieieeieieieieieiioioooioioauaauau uni kit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so good as soon as I got the book I could not stop reading it!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reply to ella if u want to talk
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If U WANT TO CHAT