LOVE, PENELOPE, by Joanne Rocklin, Illustrated by Lucy Knisley, Amulet Books/Abrams Books, Hachette Book Group


Penny is excited to welcome her new sibling, so throughout her mom’s pregnancy she writes letters to it (not it, YOU!). She introduces herself (Penelope, but she prefers “Penny”) and their moms (Sammy and Becky). She brags about their home city, Oakland, California (the weather, the Bay, and the Golden State Warriors) and shares the trials and tribulations of being a fifth-grader (which, luckily, YOU won’t have to worry about for a long time).

Penny asks little questions about her sibling’s development and starts to ask big questions about the world around her (like if and when her moms are ever going to get married “for real”).

Honest, relatable, and full of heart, Love, Penelope explores heritage, forgiveness, love, and identity through the eyes (and pen) of one memorable 10-year-old in a special year when marriage equality and an NBA championship made California a place of celebration.

Out March 2018


“I was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the land of four distinct seasons. The winters are so long!

Wintry days and nights inspired me to read many, many books, the most important thing a writer can do. Of course other seasons inspired me, too! And as soon as I learned to hold a pencil I began writing poems, stories, and diaries.

I have always owned cats (or they have owned me, a cliché, but true!) Coincidentally, all our cats have been authors, and I’ve compiled their writing secrets in the essay “Why Cats Write.”

And I have always lived within walking distance of a library. (O.K. in California, within almost-walking, but driving distance!) I love to read and write, but I also love to talk–especially about writing.”


I received this uncorrected proof in exchange for my honest review.

Some parents may struggle with having talks with their children about many difficult topics such as same sex parents/relationships, bigotry, racism, bullying and poor treatment of others by the police, climate changes, and how many prejudices are directed toward indigenous people and people of color.

This book is a great tool for helping parents and children understand all these issues. It should be in all libraries, for easy access.

Lucy Knisely’s work has always intrigued me so I wanted to see how she handled all of the above and requested the book to review. Whereas the MC is supposed to be writing letters from the perspective of a sibling, the book read more as lessons from an adult preaching morality.

I did love the MC who was developed nicely and had quite the personality.  Her excitement over the arrival of a sibling was contagious.  As Penny documents events while the pregnancy runs its course, she is certain to include things she did with her family and friends, what happened during the California drought, and all about her attempts to finish school assignments.  She made certain to include her dedication to her fav basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, or the ‘Dubs, too.’

Sadly, because the author included so much and many of the issues were rather extensive, the voice of the author diminished into a factual accounting of things that happened instead.  A preachy air took over, edged with a noticeable lack of emotions that made the story fall flat.  Other parts seemed to lay everything out at the reader’s feet, not allowing the reader to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks.  This made the story lose its interesting edge and appear a bit campy and somewhat insulting, like the reader isn’t smart enough to figure it out for themselves.

I do like the part where she is conflicted over her heritage and feels she is being disloyal to biological mom for wanting to share the Ohlone heritage belonging to her non-biological mother.  Many stepchildren/adopted children often are conflicted over sharing what is and what isn’t to be shared with non-bio parents or their bio parent, and need to know that it is okay regardless because all are part of their family structure.

Unfortunately, I felt that Penny’s voice became overwhelmed by the author’s own point of view on many of the topics addressed in the book.  The saving grace or graces for this book is how it’s set up.  In letter format, Penny addresses many issues while comprising letters to her soon-to-be-born sibling.  Although kids today seem to grow up far faster than they used to, the topics included would probably aim more for the older middle-graders.  It’s truly unfortunate that kids today are having to address so many things now and you have to wonder why this is. But the reality is what it is and this book would help them to cope and understand a lot of it.

I can see this book doing better in a graphic novel format and probably would attract more kids of the younger ages. If it were, I’d give this book a five out of five stars just for the content, and maybe bonus points if the illustrator does a great job!

Overall, and despite my own issues with how the author writes this story, I do think it’s a very needed book for today’s kids and highly recommend parents and kids read this to form their own opinions.

I gave this book:


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