A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Penelope Crumb is a fourth-grader who receives a class assignment to design a Crumb family coat of arms. Readers will learn what a coat of arms is, and get some food for thought about investigating their own family backgrounds.
Penelope Crumb emphasizes the importance of family connections, and the ways understanding family history can help young people accept themselves. Penelope comes to like her large nose after learning it's a Crumb family trait.
Positive Role Models
Penelope is being raised by her mother; her dad died when she was too young to remember him. Her mother is a hardworking, caring parent who insists on honesty and good behavior. Penelope's grandpa has some emotional limitations, but Penelope learns from him about accepting herself and others.
Violence & Scariness
Penelope visits the emergency room when she falls and suffers a minor injury.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Penelope Crumb explores family issues affecting a 9-year-old whose father died when she was a baby (before the book begins). A school assignment to create a family coat of arms contributes to the imaginative, strong-willed girl's decision to find a long-lost relative. Told in the voice of a fourth grader, the novel addresses issues of acceptance -- of self and of flawed family members -- but maintains a childlike, humorous tone. Penelope Crumb also takes an entertaining look at sibling rivalry, honesty, and friendship. Penelope is accidentally injured (not seriously) in one incident, and she repeatedly disobeys her mother and skips school to pursue her search.
Is It Any Good?
Penelope Crumb suffers mildly from a common problem that occurs when adults write in a kid's voice: The character seems a little too self-aware to be a real 9-year-old. However, the family issues in this novel are addressed with great sensitivity, particularly Penelope's mother's feelings, and the mother-daughter parts are moving. The book also includes funny, believable interactions between Penelope and her teen brother, Terrence (whom she calls "Terrible"), and makes clever, poignant connections between family history and self-acceptance.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Books with Strong Female Characters
Girl Heroes and Detectives
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate