Title: ‘Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens’
Author: Allison Rushby
Illustrator: Bronte Rose Marando
Editor: Buy Walker Books
Age range: lower primary (read aloud), middle primary
Topics: mystery, boarding school, historical fiction, paranormal.
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An inquisitive mind, and mystical mysteries to solve, add to the adventure in the first book in the new series of young adult fiction from the truly charming Allison Rushby.
‘Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens’
At Miss Strickland’s school for girls of an inquisitive mind, Penny Pickering is always in trouble for drawing in her notebook during class. All her dreams come true one day when her notorious and outrageous author, Aunt Harriet, shows up (in overalls and a publisher in tow) and asks Penny (or Penny Dreadful, as she affectionately calls her) if she’d like to join. her on an adventure. Aunt Harriet writes penny dreadfuls, which Penny Pickering has been avidly (but illegally) collecting and reading for some time. Given her unusual occupation and penchant for the strange things in life, Aunt Harriet has had limited interaction with Penny to date, but it looks like her parents have packed up and gone to Switzerland, and Aunt Harriet is on her way! position!
Penny soon finds herself heading to Hampshire and to a strange place called Mr. Toddington’s Museum of the Curious and the Absurd, where haunted kittens are said to have midnight tea parties and mysteries must be solved.
I want to live in a world where amazing things are possible, including haunted kittens. Don’t you want to live in such a world too?
Author Allison Rushby was raised on a diet of classic English literature, and this shines through in much of her writing, particularly in this new series for 7+ readers. The sense of place and time is strong, transporting young readers to England in 1872. Gorgeous illustrations by Bronte Rose Marando add to the atmosphere, with Allison enchanted by the depictions of the mischievous kittens!
The idea for this new series simmered for Allison after she read a real penny herself. Penny dreadfuls were very cheap serialized novels or comics that were popular in the mid to late 19th century. They were often sensational stories with bizarre plots and characters that came and went. Allison wondered what kind of eccentric person was writing such things!
Allison Rushby is a master storyteller and I’m so glad she now has a series for a younger audience. Our youngest readers deserve such a rich and magical book offering. Although sophisticated, Penny Dreadful is engaging and approachable, with mild humor, whimsical illustrations, an intriguing story, and elements of mystery. There is a crescendo to a dramatic finale and it leaves the reader wanting to jump right into the next volume.
In my home, ‘Miss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens’ was read ravenously by The Small Bee (9), I read it aloud to ChickPea (11) and we laughed heartily and enjoyed reading in Old English tone. I also think The Beekeeper is going to do this as a read aloud with The Smallest Bee (6). It’s safe to say that our copy is much loved.
We are all excited for Book Two titled, ‘Miss Penny Dreadful and the Malicious Maze’. More adventures for Penny and her readers!
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