Title: Penny from Heaven

Author: Jennifer L. Holm

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Price: $6.99

Number of Pages: 288

Awards: Newbery Honor, Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee

Genre/Subgenre: Historical fiction, coming-of-age fiction

Popularity: 4/5
Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation: 

Penny navigates tensions between her two extended families and seeks answers about the mysterious death of her father.


11-year old Penny feels pulled in two directions: between her mother and maternal grandparents and her deceased father’s large, Italian-American family. Penny tries to spend as much time as possible with her father’s family, and spends her summer working at her uncle’s grocery store, visiting her Nonny, following the Dodgers with her uncle, and getting into mischief with her cousin Frankie. For reasons Penny can’t understand, her mother is very protective of her and doesn’t want her to spend a lot of time with her father’s family. No one on either side of her family will tell Penny what happened to her father, and it is not until a freak accident that Penny learns the truth about her father’s death and why their is tension between her two families.


 Penny from Heaven was a great read – I couldn’t put it down! It provides a fresh perspective on America during WWII and post-WWII. Before reading this novel, I actually was not aware that Italian-Americans had been placed in internment camps during WWII. I think that fans of historical fiction and family stories will really enjoy this book.

Why I Chose the Book:

I love historical fiction, particularly WII historical fiction. Additionally, I haven’t read much about the Italian-American experience during WII and afterwards, so the plot of Penny from Heaven intrigued me very much.


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Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Painting the Rainbow by Amy Gordon

Book Talk Ideas

Pair a discussion of Penny from Heaven with a lesson on internment camps for “enemy aliens” in the United States during WWII.

Discussion Questions

1. Compare Penny’s two families – her mother’s family and her father’s family. How is Penny different when she is with each of her different families?

2. A family secret plays a major role in the plot of Penny from Heaven. How does this secret impact the relationships between characters? Do these relationships change when the secret is revealed?


Amazon (2014). Pricing information. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Penny-Heaven-Jennifer-L-Holm/dp/0375836896/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1399596866

Goodreads (2014). Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/89377.Penny_from_Heaven?from_search=true

Holm, J.L. (2006). Penny from Heaven [Kindle Edition]. New York: Random House.

“Penny from Heaven.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 20 Oct. 2006. Web. 8 May 2014. <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=njh&tg=UI&an=146964&site=novpk8-live&gt;.