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Love, Penelope


Love, Penelope

LOVE, PENELOPE by Joanne Rocklin is a book with a very sweet, honest and gentle premise which many kids will be able to relate to.

Penelope is a 10-year-old girl who is awaiting the arrival of a new sibling from her two moms. She finds there is not much she can do in order to help her family prepare for the baby other than write a collection of letters giving advice about life to her soon-to-be sibling. Penelope writes about the city of Oakland, California, her favorite basketball team, her friendship and her school assignment about their family’s heritage.

She also keeps track of the baby’s stages of development in the notebook and each letter is addressed to “YOU,” since it is unclear who exactly her new family member is going to be once he/she arrives. Anyone reading a summary or description of this book will automatically be hooked by the idea of such a heartwarming story.

"Able to touch on some very controversial and modern topics that kids will have questions about....LOVE, PENELOPE would be a good book for children who are experiencing many changes at once...."

It is also important to note that this book takes place in real time with the starting date as “Monday, November 24, 2014,” and the ending date as “Monday, August, 24th, 2015,” all the current and sporting events noted by Penelope actually happened on the dates she mentions them, which during that year would include the legalization of gay marriage and the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA championships. There is also a reference list in the back that lists games, books, movies and songs of that year that Penelope mentions. For this reason, in a few years’ time this book could be a very accurate and valuable historical fiction.

On the other hand, one major shortcoming of this book is it seems to have missed its mark on formatting. This book could have taken full advantage of the visual literature trend that is rapidly growing in popularity in youth fiction, but instead of reading like a collection of letters with authentic handwriting, doodles or drawings by a 10-year-old this book is very similar to a regular chapter book. There are some little drawings, but they seem few and far between and the text looks like it is typed on a computer, which would be fine if this was a virtual diary, but the story clearly states that Penelope is writing in a notebook. The letters even read one right after the other with only a date in the middle to separate each entry and not started on different pages as one would imagine letters would be. In the world of youth literature where DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, DORK DIARIES, TIMMY FAILURE, AMELIA’S NOTEBOOK, and other diary formatted and graphic novels are flying off the shelf, one would think that the visual aspect of this collection of letters would’ve been given more consideration and attention. Without improving the visual aspect it is feared that all the important text in this book may be glazed over and ignored.

Despite this book’s shortcomings, Penelope’s voice is that of a true 10-year-old just starting to notice and become more aware of the issues in the world around her. This book is able to touch on some very controversial and modern topics that kids will have questions about whether it is the political issues of police brutality, racial profiling and gay marriage or the anticipation of expecting a new sibling and having more truths about a family becoming evident. LOVE, PENELOPE would be a good book for children who are experiencing many changes at once who are looking for a friend. Not only will Penelope be able to provide the companionship they need, but she will also be able to demonstrate good coping mechanisms for merging young adults.

Reviewed by Angela Warsinske on March 26, 2018

Love, Penelope
by Joanne Rocklin