October 29th, 2010 by Karen
Not too long ago, I posted a review of Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder — an enjoyable book in the tradition of Edward Eager’s sweet magical adventure stories.
Well, today Laurel Snyder’s got a new book hitting the shelves, and I liked it even better than Any Which Wall! As Penny Dreadful starts, Penelope Grey is leading a perfectly dull life — she’s an only child who spends most of her time alone, because she’s tutored at home instead of going to school and her parents are loving but both pretty busy. To keep from dying of boredom, Penelope escapes into books, and it’s not long before one of those books gives her the idea to wish for “an everything change” — a total turnaround to spice up her taste-free life. The amazing thing is: it actually happens!
I have to warn you, Penny Dreadful gets off to a bit of a slow start. I knew from the description on the book cover that Penelope and her parents would be moving to a small town where Penelope would transform herself into Penny and get a brand new start. So I was kind of impatient for that part of the story — that’s the sort of thing that happens in my favorite kind of books (like Because of Winn-Dixie, Miracles on Maple Hill, and The Four-Story Mistake). Then again, I could probably win the Guinness Record for “World’s Most Impatient Person,” so maybe I’m not the right person to judge…
Also, now that I think about it, I sort of need to learn the same lesson as Penny. You see, until her family’s big move, Penny hasn’t really had many exciting experiences herself; she’s just read about what other people experience in books. As a result, she kind of expects things to turn out as neat and tidy as in a story — except that life isn’t like that! Real life is messy and unexpected, and a lot of times things get harder before they get better, and problems don’t always get solved through the miracles that you want. But then again, sometimes the surprises are better than anything you even thought to wish for. And it’s that unpredictable nature of life that makes it so interesting! That’s what Penny learns in Penny Dreadful, and I guess I could also apply that lesson to my experience reading the book: I expected one thing and got another, something much more complicated than what I originally wanted… and I loved it!
Btw, I don’t want you to think Penny Dreadful is a complicated book that’s all about Lessons and Deep Thoughts (yawn). The story is really about Penny’s adventures, and there’s plenty of fun action — including a treasure hunt in a cave, a feast at the local diner, and a bunch of wacky new friends. So if you enjoy books like The Penderwicks and Gone-Away Lake, you should definitely pick this one up! I admit, if I could follow Penny to her new town, I totally would…
And here’s something REALLY exciting: the author, Laurel Snyder, is offering what she calls the Penny Dreadful Book Club! She put together a list of books that she (and Penny) really like, and she’ll Skype in to talk with any group of three or more kids who want to read and then discuss at least three of the books on the list! (I guess 3 really is a magical number in this case.) Check out all the details and get your parent or teacher involved if you want to meet the author!
Review copy of the book was provided by the author.