Tag Archives: World War II

Penny From Heaven, by Jennifer Holm – The Newbery Project


Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm

I now know what an Iron Lung looks like. (Thank you, Jennifer L. Holm for making me wonder and thank you Google for making pictures of EVERYTHING so easy to find.) The most horrible part about the Iron Lung is that some people who contracted polio ended up using an Iron Lung for life. I mean, look at these things:


I worry every day that O will catch yet another virus from one of the other babies in his daycare and we’ll end up, yet again, hunkered down for the long haul at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Doing a little research on polio makes me feel a little paranoid. These days, there’s almost no chance that your typical immunized kid will come down with a deadly casually transmitted disease. (Thank you, Dr. Salk!) And the next time I get all pitiful about O being hooked up to oxygen for almost three weeks:

2013-03-27 In the hospital...again

Next time, I’m going to remind myself of the iron lung, and the fact that he’ll never get polio. And I’m going to remember to be grateful.

From Jennifer Holm’s website:

It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing’s that easy in Penny’s family. For starters, she can’t go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father’s name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren’t speaking to each other!

Penny From Heaven was an enjoyable flashback to a bygone era, but Turtle in Paradise is still my favorite of Holm’s three Newbery honored books. I listened to Turtle long before I started The Newbery Project. I’ll be reading (or listening to) it again when I’ve finished the rest of the Newbery books from the 2000s. A little piece of me wonders — will I love it as much the second time, now that I’ve read so many other wonderful books for kids?

Stay tuned to find out.

Penny from Heaven, by Jennifer L. Holm; Narrated by Amber Rose Sealey

Newbery Honor – 2007

A.R. Level: 4.0; Middle Grades

Book Review: The Willoughbys, The Giver, Number the Stars, and Gooney Bird Greene, all amazingly by Lois Lowry


The Willoughbys, The Giver, Number the Stars, and Gooney Bird Greene, all amazingly by Lois Lowry

AR Levels:
The Willoughbys – 5.2
The Giver – 5.7 (Newbery  Medal -1994)
Number the Stars – 4.5 (Newbery Medal – 1990)
Gooney Bird Greene – 3.9

Recommended for middle grades, except Gooney Bird Greene (elementary)

The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry

The Willoughbys

Lois Lowry is one of those authors who makes me wish I had been born a little later – like about 25 years later – so I could have enjoyed her books as a child. I was first introduced to her work about a year ago when our local library happened to have a copy of The Willoughbys displayed in a staff recommendations collection in the children’s department. I thought it had a cool-looking cover, and I was still on my seemingly never-ending quest to find books that T. would actually want to read (thank you, Captain Underpants for finally ending that quest for me), so I checked it out. Truly, it was one of the funniest books I had read in a long, long time. When I finished it, I thought, Hey, anyone who can write a story this funny about four kids who want to be orphans must have a whole collection of funny books. I should look for more! And so I went back to the children’s department and picked up a copy of The Giver.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Giver

Those of you who are familiar with Lois Lowry are laughing right about now. Those of you who aren’t… well… The Giver turned out to be the story of a dystopian society (look it up – I did) in which all knowledge is controlled by a single person – the Giver. All access to books, to information about life outside their community, all held in a single hand. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a boy is chosen to succeed the Giver. At first, he’s flattered and overwhelmed. But the more he realizes how much his society is missing, the more discontent he becomes. It’s a moving and disturbing view of what our future could be if we aren’t vigilant about protecting our freedoms.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars

Naturally, once I read The Giver I was amazed that the person who’d written this very serious book could have been the same as the writer of the slapstick Willoughbys. I looked up more of her writings and found Lowry had also won a Newberry for Number the Stars, the story, as told through the eyes of a young Danish girl, of her people’s efforts to save their country’s Jewish population from certain slaughter by the Nazis during World War II. Frankly, I was still feeling a little morose from thinking about everything The Giver gives you to think about and wasn’t quite ready for a Holocaust novel. Since then I’ve read The Gendarme and Sarah’s Key, which just goes to show that you shouldn’t avoid reading difficult things, or something even harder might just come your way.

Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry

Gooney Bird Greene

After reading The Giver and reading about Number the Stars, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered recently that Lois Lowry was also the author of the Gooney Bird Greene Series! These aren’t just different types of books – they are in completely different ballparks, on opposite sides of the country, possibly on different continents. Ready now to continue my Lois Lowry journey, I checked out a copy of Gooney Bird Greene. I was not disappointed. Gooney Bird is a hoot. She is entirely an individual, and full of great stories. You should check her out even if it’s been many, many years since you were in second grade.

I’m looking forward to discovering more of Lowry’s work and I hope you will too.