Love, Penelope

illus. by Lucy Knisley. 240p. Abrams/Amulet. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419728617.
Gr 4–6—Penelope loves a lot of things: her best friend Gabby; the Golden State Warriors; her hometown of Oakland, CA; her favorite teacher, Mr. Chen; her two moms, Mama and Sammy; her soon-to-be-born sibling. But there are a lot of things in Penny's world that are stressing her out: the new girl, Hazel, who is changing her dynamic with Gabby; the Warriors' chances of winning the NBA Finals; whether the Supreme Court will rule on marriage equality; the lie she has told about her nonexistent Ohlone ancestry. It's overwhelming for the 10-year-old. In charming, illustrated journal entries addressed to her future sibling, Penny spills all of her fears, insecurities, and joys. There is a lot to unpack here; in addition to all the issues previously mentioned, Penny is also dealing with a crush on Gabby's older brother, an estranged grandfather, homophobic reactions to her family unit, and a classmate's incarcerated father. While it's commendable to address such topical issues, the story would have been served better without some of the underdeveloped plot threads. Additionally, Penny goes on ad nauseam about her love of Oakland, yet the story lacks a rich sense of place. However, Penny's voice is precocious and compassionate, and the way in which she reacts to the events around her rings true. Knisley's illustrations add charm and authenticity to the story; Rocklin adds back matter, including resources about the Ohlone, LGBT families, Bay Area history, and the stages of pregnancy.
VERDICT Not entirely successful but recommended for its strong and positive portrayal of a blended family, and an easy-buy for Bay Area libraries.

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