“eleven and holding” by Mary Penney is a wonderfully deceptive story that starts with a simple premise and slowly becomes increasingly more poignant and emotional. I love the way the author invested me with Macy’s perspective and the reason for her frustration at her father’s absence, her antipathy against the man who purchased her grandmom’s coffee shop, and disinclination to advance to a new school without her best friend. The simple is combined with the complex as a lost dog, irritating boy, and apparently disloyal actions on the part of her mom evolve to a life-changing series of events that I believe would overwhelm anyone, let alone an almost-twelve-year-old. The contrast between the events and the town’s name is a nice allegory for the entire story. The phrasing of the story is whimsical and tilted just enough that I was able to see events through her eyes and become fascinated by her approach to challenges. I was very touched by this story and think that young and old alike will appreciate it, but warn readers to have the tissue box close at hand.
This children’s story addresses change and loss as filtered through the eyes of a young girl who is daunted by the absence of her beloved military father as well as the potential absence of her best friend Tui (who lets herself be known as Twee for pronunciation efficacy) while dealing with the permanent absence of her beloved grandmother, Nana. There are some things she can’t do anything about, like the creep who has bought her Nana’s coffee shop, or her annoying baby brother who adores his big sister, but there are other things she is not willing to give up without a fight, and she works diligently at finding a solution to other problems in her own inimitable style.
Macy Hollinquest is eleven years old, and don’t count on her to change that anytime soon.
Her birthday is just days away, but she has no intention of turning twelve without her dad by her side. He’d promised to be there for her big day, and yet he’s been gone for months—away after his discharge from the army, doing some kind of top secret, “important work.”
So Macy’s staying eleven, no matter what—that is, until she meets Ginger, a nice older lady who is searching for her missing dog. Ginger’s dog search is the perfect cover for Macy’s attempt to locate her dad. But her hunt puts her on a path to a head-on collision with the truth, where she discovers that knowing can sometimes be a heavy burden. And that change, when finally accepted, comes with an unexpected kind of grace.
Mary Penney’s earnest, heartfelt story of change, loss, and new beginnings will resonate with young readers on the cusp of new beginnings, and stay in their hearts long after it’s done.
Age Level: 8 - 12 / Grade Level: 3 - 7