________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004

cover Penelope: Christmas Reunion. (Our Canadian Girl).

Sharon E. McKay.
Toronto, ON: Penguin Canada, 2004.
118 pp., pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 0-14-301670-9.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

**** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proofs.


Penny backed away from the door, turned, then took the stairs two at a time. She had had the good sense to put on her best dress before coming down, but she'd have some explaining to do if Sally got hold of her now. It was just as well that Penny was in a panic. She didn't want to think about the conversation she had overheard. After all, it was good news. Papa was making plans for them all to be together again. It was exactly what she had wished for. But if it was good news, why did she feel so awful?

It is Christmas of 1919, just over a year since the horrible explosion in Halifax harbour destroyed Penny's home and blew apart her life. While her widowed father rebuilds the family's home, Penny and her sisters have been taken in by relatives in other parts of the country. Emily and Maggie are with an aunt in Toronto, and Penny is with her rich grandmother in Montreal. It has taken many months for Penny to adapt to her new circumstances, but at last she is comfortable in her school, she has made friends, and she has even broken through the icy façade her grandmother wears as a shield. So when Grandmother announces that Penny's father and sisters will be coming to Montreal for Christmas, Penny is over the moon.

     Despite the fact that she has gone through many changes herself during the past year, Penny doesn't foresee that the other members of her family have gone through changes as well. So she is disappointed when baby Maggie doesn't remember her and hurt that six-year old Emily has taken over as big sister. And though Penny loves Aunt Colleen, she is stunned by the news that she is to be her father's new wife. Things are not turning out as Penny had imagined. So when Father announces that the family will be heading back to Halifax right after Christmas the very thing that Penny has been yearning for! she is surprised to discover she doesn't want to go.

     Christmas Reunion, the final book in the "Our Canadian Girl Penelope" series, is the icing on a wonderful cake. Sharon McKay has managed to write four novels that are complex enough to be read and enjoyed independently. However, I would strongly recommend collecting all four for an even more satisfying reading experience. Penelope is a character readers can care about. She is a likeable young lady, and her problems are real, as are the ways in which they are resolved. The other characters are likewise well-developed and therefore credible. The historic element of the novel is expertly handled, resulting in a setting that is simultaneously believable and appropriate to the events of the story. However, the most satisfying aspect of the Penelope series is the growth and change in Penelope herself. It happens gradually with each book, so that when the end arrives and Penny finally makes her choice, the reader aches for her emotional upheaval, but ultimately accepts her decision. Bravo!

Highly Recommended.

Kristin Butcher lives in Victoria, BC, and writes for children.


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