Maggie Grinnell,
Isabella & Penelope
(AG Press, 2012)

Little book. Big heart.

Don't let the size of this book fool you. In this slim, 16-page volume, author Maggie Grinnell addresses the subject of loss in a touching way that is accessible to young readers. Six-year-old Isabella has lost her father to a tragic accident, and Isabella has not spoken since being told of her father's death two years prior. Isabella develops a friendship with a pink caterpillar named Penelope who helps Isabella find her voice.

Grinnell uses good sensory detail throughout the story. One of my favorite scenes involves Penelope encountering "a pretty pink rose that has fallen on the grass." Penelope realizes that she and the flower are both pink and says, 'I must be as pretty as this flower. I'm sure I smell as nice, too.' " I loved Grinnell's subtle encouragement for children to think well of themselves, a skill most adults I know lack.

The illustrations by Sarah Bowman are simple, but bright and appealing. Even children who have not suffered a loss will enjoy the story of the unlikely friendship between Isabella and Penelope.

My only criticisms of the book are fairly minor. Occasionally the author uses an awkward word choice, but overall the book reads smoothly. And, of course, the reader will hear how a caterpillar goes to sleep one night and wakes up a butterfly in the morning, many days before this would be possible in the real world. But even this technical hiccup doesn't overshadow the real purpose of the book.

Particularly lovely is the final image of butterflies coming to rest on Isabella's window ledge. These butterflies represent kisses from Isabella's father in heaven. In Isabella & Penelope, Maggie Grinnell offers her readers a charming story of friendship and healing.

book review by
Kathy Wenerick-Bell

1 June 2013

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new