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Penny Dreadful

Review

Penny Dreadful

written by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

Penelope Grey's life was as colorless as her last name. Despite living in a huge mansion in a fabulous city, having tons of books and toys and wonderful parents, she was bored. Her mom and dad worked a lot, and she learned at home with a tutor, with only occasional forays outside her house. Her friends were nice but dull, and she had little in common with them. And on top of all that, she had no siblings to share her boredom with. Penelope was even bored with her name. Inspired by MAGIC OR NOT? by Edward Eager, Penelope finds herself tossing a scrap of paper, inscribed with a wish, into a well. She wished something interesting would happen, and in fact, her wish comes true! PENNY DREADFUL by Laurel Snyder is the story of Penelope's granted wishes.

Soon after wishing at the well, Penelope's father quits his job, and her mother learns that she has inherited a house from an aunt she never met. The family packs up and leaves the city, finding themselves owners of a strange property called the Whippoorwillows, in the small town of Thrush Junction, home to many interesting folks. But before settling there, Penelope learns that her wish for something new and exciting has come at a price. Without her father's job, the family is broke and cannot afford their mansion or its staff any longer. As the weeks go by, her father, who had hoped to write a novel, grows depressed, her mother grows frustrated and Penelope grows anxious. The move cheers them all up, and they are ready for adventure.

But the house in the city doesn't sell, and it turns out that the Whippoorwillows is a debt-ridden property, full of tenants who don't pay rent. Penelope's father is not working on his novel, instead cooking and baking and puttering in the garden. Her mother can only find work as a garbage-woman (a job she really doesn't mind). The family continues to be stressed about money and their future. Even as things look their bleakest, however, Penelope, who has changed her name to Penny, is happy. She’s happy to live at the Whippoorwillows, uncovering all its treasures and tales, and she’s making friends with children who are challenging her to think of the world in new and exciting ways. Her only worry now is that they will have to return to the city, leaving Thrush Junction and all its magic behind. Perhaps just another wish (that, or the discovery of a miner's hidden treasure) will solve all their problems...

PENNY DREADFUL is a lovely and charming chapter book about possibility, identity, expectations and opportunity. Penny and her parents must seek happiness and fulfillment despite many obstacles, and she realizes that though wishes often come true, it is just as likely hard work, ingenuity and determination as it is magic that’s responsible. The story is fun and clever, and readable, with a nice sprinkling of references to other children's books. Young readers will find humor, thoughtfulness and plenty of adventure accompanied by Abigail Halpin's delightful drawings in this quirky and entertaining tale.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on September 27, 2011

Penny Dreadful
written by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2011
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling
  • ISBN-10: 0375861696
  • ISBN-13: 9780375861697