Penny Dreadful

In my adult life, I’ve watched a few people wish for an “everything change” in their lives, make a complete change in their career and location, and fall on their face and not get back up.  Needless to say, it’s hard for me to imagine a completely successful “everything change” that turns out ok, but in my heart I know they can happen and DO happen.

In Laurel Snyder’s book, Penny Dreadful, Penelope Grey wishes for just that:  an everything change.  Penelope’s father is way too busy with his job and her mother is way too busy with her social life, so Penelope just wants some excitement and adventure for a change.  Here’s where Laurel Snyder brings in the magical power of wishes and dreams.  When Penelope makes a wish in a wishing well, everything changes.  Her father quits his job in order to work on becoming a writer and their bills quickly become too hard to handle.  Then, Penelope’s mother inherits a house in the country called the Whippoorwillows.  It seems their luck is changing, but the Whippoorwillows brings with it a whole other set of worries (along with a cast of unforgettable characters).  Will Penelope (Penny) and her family’s “everything change” turn out for the best or will they fall on their face like a few people you might know?  You’ll just have to go on the adventure to find out.

From page one of this book, I was hooked.  Penny is the kind of narrator that just draws you in, speaks to your heart, and makes you want to help her make her dreams come true.  Laurel Snyder weaves in just a bit of fantastical magic in the way of wish-making, but the majority of the book is about the simple, everyday magic that happens in adventures outdoors, conversations with people you would never dream of speaking to, and unexpected friendships that could last a lifetime.

Two books came to mind as I read.  Penny and the many other children that inhabit the Whippoorwillows make adventures out of their everyday interactions with one another.  They tromp around through the woods and caves (something that many kids seem to be missing out on these days) and create their own magic just like the sisters of Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks tales.  When I read The Penderwicks, I was overjoyed at what a wonderful story was created out of simple, everyday adventures between a group of sisters.  Laurel Snyder has captured that same magic here.  I was also reminded of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.  In that book, a dog guides the main character Opal to all of the quirky characters of a community and Opal sees the uniqueness of each person and finds a way to connect them all together.  The residents of the Whippoorwillows reminded me of the community in Because of Winn-Dixie.  Laurel Snyder brings in so many personalities, lifestyles, and unusual hobbies and yet all of these people come together into a tightly connected community.  I love that kind of magic in a story.

Penny Dreadful is a delight and is not to be missed.  Check it out today in our media center or your local library (or at your favorite bookstore).

David C. Barrow Elementary is so fortunate to have Laurel Snyder coming to visit our PreK-5th grade students on February 24th.  I know that her talent as a writer will inspire our young scholars to dream up the most magical of stories when she leaves.

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