Thursday, August 25, 2011

Riches to Rags: Penny Dreadful

Penny DreadfulI can't properly judge a book that name-checks as many good kidlit sources as Laurel Snyder's Penny Dreadful; I'm too busy chortling with joy. Penelope learned most of what she knows about life from books; when trying to "do" something every day she decides what to do by pulling out a book from her shelves and doing something based on it. Her shelves include classics like Nesbit and Eager as well as modern books like Birdwell's Penderwicks.

When her family has to move from the adventure-less splendor of the ancestral mansion to the quirky boarding house in the country with real friends for Penny to play with, she starts to add real experiences to her book learning.

Penny is a basically good kid, sometimes a bit jealous but willing to try to play nice, someone who respects herself but doesn't take herself too seriously. Her parents also have tame issues, although I was glad the tone of the book kept me reassured that things would turn out well, since they go through some changes that I suspect appeared much more frightening to adult readers than children.

My only quibble was the end; after going to great lengths to blur the magic or just good karma line, Snyder first tips a bit too far towards magic before pulling back to harshly declare that books aren't even real, something actually quite hard to do in a book. Anytime a character in a book declares "you don't live in a book. Nobody does, silly" my suspension of disbelief takes a hard knock, one that in this book tossed me right out, because clearly these kids do live in a book and reminding me of that just lowers the fun. Luckily that only happened in the last two pages, so I just counted it as a slightly early dismount from the story.

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