Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder

Do you know what a penny dreadful is?  Here's Wikipedia's definition: "A penny dreadful (also called penny horrible, penny awful, penny number and penny blood) was a type of British fiction publication in the 19th century that usually featured lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny. The term, however, soon came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet "libraries." The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at working class adolescents."

Now how is a penny dreadful involved in this story?  Keep reading...

Random House Books for Young Readers sent me a hardcover copy of this book for review (thank you).  The book is currently available at your local bookstore.  Abigail Halpin is the illustrator and her sweet illustrations help you see the story in your mind's eye.

Penelope Grey is bored.  Her life is the same everyday.  She has a pampered city life, a few friends and nothing to do.  So she wishes that would change.  Little did she know her Dad would quit his job to write a novel and they'd have to downsize with less income and it would involve a move to the country!

When she gets to her new destination, she finds they live in the upstairs apartment of a house.  She also finds some old, fragile penny dreadfuls sitting around in boxes.  Amazing!  The whole family also finds that there are lots of residents in the other houses all built around the first - and they are there rent free.  They exist by trading services or produce or whatever they have to get what they need.  What a lifestyle change for the Grey family...

Ms. Snyder wends her way through the story with style and you find it easy to relate to Penny and her parents and their challenges.  She also fills the story with interesting characters that have odd quirks, unusual backgrounds and even some alternative lifestyles. 

I found it easy to read and could relate those odd folks, I've known enough of them in my life.  We always had extra people around the table on holidays.  Anyone who had nowhere to go was welcome to come to our house and eat.  However, if you are sensitive about what you want your child to read, be aware there is one family where the boy has two mommies instead of the traditional family.  It's just a bit of the story and is of no real note, it's just another family.

It's my personal belief that children should be able to read a wide range of books.  If there is something in it that raises questions, answer them.  If they say nothing about it, ask them what they thought about it.  Let them know they can ask anything and talk about anything with you.  Don't censor them and don't think that because you hid it from them, they won't find out about it.

I only mention this because another blogger took issue with that brief mention of such a family.  To me, it's just part of the story, not a moral issue or promotion of that lifestyle.

This is a very nice story about a family facing challenges and trying to overcome them.  It's written for ages 8-12 and children should enjoy it.  It reminds just a bit of Anne of Green Gables, maybe just because it's a family story with a strong young female character.

Visit your local bookstore and pick up a copy, it's out now.  Happy reading!

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