by Jennifer L. Holm
narrated by Amber Sealey
New York : Random House/Listening Library, p2006.
Penny's real name is Barbara, but she's always been called Penny after the song lyric, "pennies from heaven." She lives with her mother and grandparents; her father is dead, but on his side of the family is a large, loving Italian American extended family complete with grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The summer she is eleven-going-on-twelve is in the 1950s, and Penny gets a chance to work at her uncle's butcher shop.
I found Penny to be a really likable heroine, and her story is charming. Amber Sealey is an excellent narrator, not only capturing Penny's voice, but also managing a bunch of Italian-accented English that still sounded like individual characters (though not having any Italian relatives, I couldn't tell you how accurate the accent was!). Penny's interactions with her various family members are realistic, and easily relatable. Though this is technically historical fiction, it's based at least partly on the author's own experience growing up, and the history is more of a fact of her life - such as her grandfather's experience in the war - rather than a lesson. A really enjoyable read that I highly recommend.