Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage
Ages 8 to 12
Marshall Cavendish, 2006, 0-7614-5287-7
Penelope, or Penny as her parents call her, is not at all pleased with the current state of affairs. Her mother has had to leave their San Francisco home to join her husband in Hawaii to help him with his field work there. Penny is having to stay behind and since she is too young to live by herself, she is having to go to live with her aunt and uncle. Though Penny likes her uncle and her cousin Aldy, her Aunt Phyliss and her two girl cousins are a trial. It does not help that Penny frequently talks about her love for the theatre and her hope that she will one day become an actress. Aunt Phyliss cannot abide the theatre and thinks that all actors are a very low class of person. She therefore very firmly squashes all of Penny’s efforts to further her theatrical career and for Penny this is almost more frustrating than she can bear.
Not being the kind of girl who gives up easily, Penny does her best to do what is important to her behind Aunt Phyliss’ back. This course of action is fraught with all kinds of possible dangers but Penny is determined to meet actors, to act in plays, and to learn all she can about the acting world. She only hopes that she can do so without incurring the wrath of her very single-minded aunt.
Susanna Reich has created a very interesting and convincing picture of life in late 1800’s San Francisco. Great changes were taking place at this time and girls and women were finally beginning to question the roles that society had hitherto forced on them. Many, like Penny, wanted to be more than a wife and mother. They had dreams, and they were not afraid to pursue these dreams. Loosely based on the life of the famous dancer Isadora Duncan, this is a novel which will help young girls of today see how different life was for girls living in the late 1800’s.
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