Monday, September 16, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: PENELOPE CRUMB by Shawn K. Stout

PENELOPE CRUMB by Shawn K. Stout (Philomel 2012)

Opening Lines: "Miss Stunkel's art class is my All-Time Favorite. Don't get me wrong, the rest of fourth grade is all right, I guess. But for me, drawing is like wiggling my toes in the ocean. It just feels good."

What It's About (from jacket copy): There are some things that Penelope Crumb knows for certain:  Onions are the worst vegetable because they look like worms when they get all fried up. Miss Stunkel's Friday lizard pin is the best one of the week because it has rubies for eyes. And when a person is Graveyard Dead, they can never, ever come back back to life. Except... what if that person is your grandpa Felix? And what if you discover that you have his very same nose--one that happens to be EXTREMELY BIG?

When all of these things happen to Penelope Crumb, she knows just what to do: become a nose detective to find her long-lost grandfather and make her family whole again. But finding him isn't that easy, and Penelope has to sneak around, lie an eensy-weensy bit, and break about a gazillion of her mother's rules, risking the Very Biggest Punishment of Her Life. Is Grandpa Felix worth it? Penelope is pretty sure he will be--if she can ever find him, that is...

What I Liked:  I defy anyone not to fall in love with Penelope Crumb. She is one spunky fourth-grader, with a voice and a world view all her own. She just knows her older brother has been turned into an alien and renamed Terrible (his real name is Terrence.) She also knows that looks have descriptions all their own and in capital letters, especially if they come from Mom ( Mom "gives me a face that says, You Probably Aren't Going to Like What I'm About to Tell You.") Best of all, she wears her "colossal" nose as a badge of pride. After all, it's a link to her grandfather who (for reasons never spelled out) has been ignoring the family ever since Penelope's dad died.

Shawn K. Stout writes with appealing verve and with great insight into what it's like being a fourth-grade girl. I eagerly followed Penelope through the twists and turns of the narrative. The most delightful thing is that, throughout the novel, Penelope was the highly verbal engine of her own fate. I would highly recommend this novel [and hey, I've just found out there are sequels, (Penelope Crumb Never Forgets and Penelope Crumb Finds Her Luck) now both making their way to the top of my huge TBR list] to readers age 9-12.

About the Author: Shawn K. Stout's other novels are about Fiona Finkelstein, (but have been recently retitled.) She received her MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and lives with her family in Frederick, Maryland. She is represented by Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Agency.

Find out more about Shawn K. Stout on her website here!

Finally, a big fat, happy September-back-to-school month from us at Middle Grade Mafioso. Lots more time for me and the Don to kibbitz and discuss media strategy now that the kiddos take the armor-plated limousine to school. I've got a whole bunch of book reviews I've been piling up, plus some exciting news to share tomorrow (though unfortunately not of the "I'm being published" kind, though we can but dream.) So pop on back on the morrow and find out my news. Thanks for reading!


  1. Thanks for the great review. And Penelope sounds like she's got a great voice.

    I can so relate to having more time once school starts.

  2. I love the opening! Penelope sounds like quite a character!

  3. I got this one from the library b/c it has such a cute cover... and couldn't get into it. I wanted to, but I guess the writing style didn't click with me. If I remember correctly she put a lot of things in parentheses as side comments and there were a few references, in the little bit that I did read, that no middle-school student of today would get.

    I don't know, maybe I need to give it another chance. If the Don can read it, maybe I should! :-)

  4. I think I would enjoy know Penelope. Thanks for the review.

  5. Penelope sounds so fun, and I love the cover!

  6. I love the opening lines! Sounds like a book with a lot of spunk and fun.

  7. Fun cover and a spunky voice? I need to get my hands on a copy asap.

    Thanks for the feature. :)


  8. Great voice indeed! Thanks for the review - this one alluded me!


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