Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage

Penelope Bailey Takes the Stage

Susanna Reich
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Cavendish Square Publishing, 2006   ISBN: 978-0761452874

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 has to stay behind, and since she is too young to live by herself, she is going to live with her aunt and uncle. Though Penny likes her uncle and her boy cousin Aldy, her Aunt Phyliss and her two girl cousins are a trial. The fact that Penny frequently talks about her love for the theater and her hope that she will one day become an actress only makes the situation worse. Aunt Phyliss cannot abide the theater and she 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. 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; for one thing 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 those dreams. Loosely based on the life of the famous dancer Isadora Duncan, this is a novel that will help young peopleĀ of today see how different life was for girls living in the late 1800's.