Penelope's plans for summer vacation are turned upside down when her mother must join her father's research expedition in Hawaii. Penelope goes across the bay, from Berkeley to San Francisco, to stay with unpleasant Aunt Phyllis, Uncle Henry, and her three cousins. Aunt Phyllis is determined to tame the spirited Penny with comportment lessons, and her aunt certainly will not tolerate Penny's dream of becoming an actress. The tension between Aunt Phyllis and Penny will have readers rooting for Penny every step of the way. When Penny discovers that she lives next door to real actors, her conversations with Mr. Prenderwinkel bolster her dream. Mr. Prenderwinkel is on stage in a Shakespearean play, and Penny is playing Juliet in a class program, unbeknownst to Aunt Phyllis. The story is set in the late 1800s, and historical details are woven nicely throughout the plot, lending authenticity to the characters and the setting. Short chapters and lots of action keep the story moving, right up to the ending that provides a satisfying resolution for each character. 2006, Marshall Cavendish, Ages 9 to 12.
It is the late 1800s in the San Francisco Bay area, and eleven-year-old Penny's mother leaves to assist her scientist husband in Hawaii. Penelope is left with her uncle, aunt, and cousins, her dreams of preparing for an acting career seriously threatened by her rigid, social-climbing aunt's negative view on the propriety of the profession. Trouble ensues when Penny plots to star in a school play despite her aunt's adamant refusal to allow her participation. Most teen readers could sympathize with Penny being at odds with her elders; however, Penny's petulance and foot stomping will turn off all but the youngest readers. The characters are rather predictable. The two girl cousins are prissy snobs, whereas the boy cousin is a rambunctious scamp. The uncle is kind but leaves child-rearing issues to his wife. The next-door neighbor just happens to be a famous actor who is unfailingly kind and sympathetic to the incessantly chatty Penelope. Everything is tied up quite neatly as her parents arrive in the nick of time to save Penny from the wrath of her aunt. Thus there is little consequence to her very determined disobedience. Anna Myers's Assassin (Walker, 2005/VOYA October 2005) includes a much better story of a young girl's theatrical aspirations in a historical context. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, Marshall Cavendish, 206p., Ages 11 to 14.
Gr 5-7-Eleven-year-old Penny is an exuberant would-be thespian caught between the Victorian prudery that rules the San Francisco household of the elegant aunt and uncle with whom she lives and the adventuresome spirit that has sent her parents to do botanical research in the exotic Hawaiian Islands. Aunt Phyllis fawns over her snobbish daughters but clearly disapproves of her niece. The child finds refuge in encounters with Mr. Prenderwinkel, a Shakespearean actor; her beloved teacher, Miss Adelaide; and her friend Isabelle Grey, a free spirit. Frustrated by her aunt's refusal to allow her to spread her dramatic wings, Penny forges the woman's permission and auditions for the part of Juliet in the class play. When a cousin betrays her, she can't bear her punishment-banishment not only from the play, but also from Miss Adelaide's class-and she runs away. When she is restored to her relatives, she maneuvers her way back into the production so that her unsuspecting aunt can see her perform. Of course, her debut is a success. The lively writing is filled with realistic dialogue. Details paint a vivid picture of place, time, and contemporary mores. Penny is a well-developed protagonist, but the other characters tend to be two-dimensional stereotypes, and the language of both Mr. Prenderwinkel and Isabelle is at times overly dramatic. While the first half of the book is filled with interesting situations, the last part is predictable, and the ending a bit too neat. Nevertheless, wannabe actresses are sure to enjoy this fast-paced, fun story.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In 1889, 11-years-old Penny Bailey of Berkeley, Calif. is determined to become an actress. Her dreams are put on hold, however, when she must spend several months with her very Victorian and theater-hating aunt in San Francisco. She has various adventures, many of them unpleasant thanks to her humorless aunt, Phyllis, and her two snobbish daughters. On the few occasions when she escapes from them, she does meet exciting people involved in theater. One group, obviously based on young Isadora Duncan's family, shows her what freedom and artistry are despite their genteel poverty. When they are on the scene, the book is lively and proceeds apace; when they are not, it drags with intrusive details that the author inserts, perhaps to expand the setting. Characterization is lifeless and the snobby and mean actions of her cousins are annoying, as is the meanness of her aunt. Would close out of town. (author's note, sources) (Fiction. 9-12)