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Penny Draws a School Play by Sara Shepard

Halfway through fifth grade, Penny is discovering that things are going well. Her friends are on her side, so she knows she can handle things. However, big changes are on the horizon - her mum is about to give birth to twins, her family is moving house and Penny has been picked for a role in the school play.

This is the second book in a heartfelt series about a girl who writes a diary to her dog Cosmo to cope with her anxiety.

Author Sara Shepard uses Penny's life, which is extremely relatable to its audience, to spark important conversations and help her readers to process some big worries. Life transitions - changing schools, moving towns, family deaths - are part of life for all of us. For children, they can be extremely upsetting and have a huge impact. Shepard uses Penny's stories to offer ideas for how readers of all ages can support children's emotional needs during these times.

Through Penny, she role models to her younger readers the words and strategies for expressing their feelings and emotions. There are some great strategies embedded within the book that will be helpful to both children and adults - including thinking positively, celebrating memories, secure attachments, time and reassurance that what children are experiencing is natural and normal.

Penny's voice is authentic and perfectly pitched. She's relatable and friendly, and younger readers will recognise themselves in Penny. Penny is supported by a wonderful set of friends and classmates, parents and teachers. Each one has a distinct voice and personality.

Shepard has made this book appealing for readers, particularly those less confident or more reluctant to dive in. Each page is richly illustrated with quirky doodles, drawn by Shepard, and each chapter moves the story along quickly. As mentioned, each chapter is actually a letter to her dog Cosmo, which quickly gives readers access to her point of view, while subtly introducing them to another coping strategy that they could use in their lives.

Penny Draws a School Play is another charming, witty and emotionally accessible story to help our middle grade readers process their big worries.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Text Publishing


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