Pennypacker, Sara 1951- (Sara Young)

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Pennypacker, Sara 1951- (Sara Young)


Born 1951.


Home—Cape Cod, MA.


Author and watercolor painter.


Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, 2007, for Clementine.


Dumbstruck, illustrated by Mary Jane Auch, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1994.

Stuart's Cape, illustrated by Martin Matje, Orchard (New York, NY), 2002.

Stuart Goes to School, illustrated by Martin Matje, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.

Clementine, illustrated by Marla Frazee, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Pierre in Love, illustrated by Petra Mathers, Orchard (New York, NY), 2007.

The Talented Clementine, illustrated by Marla Frazee, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

(As Sara Young) My Enemy's Cradle, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.


Although she has been a published author since the early 1990s, Sara Pennypacker initially focused on her work as a watercolorist. In 1997, however, she decided that a career in the fine arts was not to be. "I came to a realization that I needed the world of visual art more than the world of visual art needed me," she recalled to Rick Margolis in School Library Journal, describing the realization as "a profound turning point." While home-schooling her children, Pennypacker had the opportunity to study the wealth of picture books being published, and she decided to embark on a career in writing. Regarding her inspiration, she told Margolis: "I'm attracted to stories about things that strike me as unfair—and I just have to write something to correct that unfairness." Along with her children's books, Pennypacker has also written an adult novel, My Enemy's Cradle, under the name Sara Young.

Pennypacker's first children's book, Dumbstruck, is a wild adventure tale of Ivy, who must search for her lost parents after they mysteriously disappear. With the help of Aunt Zilpa, who has a 300-pound pet ostrich, and her neighbor Pearletta Swicegood, who is addicted to television game shows, Ivy sets off on her quest. "Pennypacker makes a winning debut with this witty, quixotic novel," wrote a contributor to Publishers Weekly.

The "Stuart" books use the same tongue-in-cheek sense of humor as Dumbstruck: in Stuart's Cape, young Stuart is nervous about entering the third grade in a new town. In order to prepare, he decides to have an adventure, and for that, he needs a cape. The imaginary adventures that follow include one in which a bite of his Aunt Bubbles's angle food cake causes him to fly; one in which he talks to a garbage man who has turned into a cat; and one in which he plays let's pretend with a gorilla. "Pennypacker's obvious plays on words are perfect for young readers just beginning to read chapter books," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, and Susan Dove Lempke wrote in Booklist that "in Stuart's world, the real, the eccentric, and the magical all spin together." According to Robyn Ryan Vandenbroeck, reviewing Stuart's Cape for School Library Journal, Pennypacker's "story is hilariously descriptive and will appeal to both slower and more proficient readers."

The magic cape also comes to Stuart's aid in Stuart Goes to School. Still not quite able to control the cape's magic, Stuart finds himself with disappearing clothing, teleports himself into the teachers' lounge, and winds up the owner of a pencil that has a mind of its own. "Young readers are sure to identify with Stuart's persistent quest to find his place in the classroom society," predicted Elaine E. Knight in School Library Journal, while a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed Stuart Goes to School "hilarious and clever."

Pennypacker introduces another rambunctious third-grader in Clementine. Unlike Stuart, Clementine does not need a cape to get her into mischief: in Clementine, the girl relates a week in which many "not so good" things happen, including a friend's hair being cut off after she got glue in it and Clementine cutting off her own hair in sympathy. "Pennypacker seamlessly weaves into the narrative common third-grade themes," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Readers will "laugh out loud at her impulsive antics, narrated in a fresh first-person voice," concluded a Kirkus Reviews writer, and Cheryl Ashton, reviewing Clementine for School Library Journal, deemed the work "a delightful addition to any beginning chapter-book collection."

In The Talented Clementine, Clementine's misadventures continue. She thinks she does not have a particular talent, so when the third- and fourth-graders put on a talent show, she has no idea what to do. As she brainstorms, each potential talent gets wackier. Despite its focus on humor, Pennypacker's "narrative avoids the pitfall of deteriorating into slapstick with the constant reminders of her essential humanity," according to a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Clementine "will equally charm returning readers and those meeting her for the first time," Jennifer Mattson assured in her Booklist review of the same book. Mary Jean Smith, reviewing The Talented Clementine for School Library Journal, concluded of the work that "Clementine is a true original."



Booklist, September 1, 2002, Susan Dover Lempke, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 125; July, 2003, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Stuart Goes to School, p. 1892; June 1, 2005, Lolly Gepson, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 1838; October 15, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of Clementine, p. 55; December 15, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Pierre in Love, p. 47; March 15, 2007, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Talented Clementine, p. 54.

Horn Book, January-February, 2007, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of Clementine, p. 71; May-June, 2007, Robin Smith, review of The Talented Clementine, p. 287; September-October, 2007, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Clementine, p. 601.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 961; June 15, 2003, review of Stuart Goes to School, p. 863; July 15, 2006, review of Clementine, p. 728; December 1, 2006, review of Pierre in Love, p. 1224; March 1, 2007, review of The Talented Clementine, p. 230.

Publishers Weekly, April 4, 1994, review of Dumbstruck, p. 80; November 4, 2002, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 84; August 7, 2006, review of Clementine, p. 59; December 18, 2006, review of Pierre in Love, p. 62; October 1, 2007, review of My Enemy's Cradle, p. 37.

School Library Journal, November, 2002, Robyn Ryan Vandenbroeck, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 133; September, 2003, Elaine E. Knight, review of Stuart Goes to School, p. 187; August, 2005, Teresa Bateman, review of Stuart's Cape, p. 67; October, 2006, Cheryl Ashton, review of Clementine, p. 123; March, 2007, Rachael Vilmar, review of Pierre in Love, p. 184; April, 2007, Rick Margolis, "The Fruits of Her Labor," interview, p. 35, Mary Jean Smith, review of The Talented Clementine, p. 114.


Hyperion Web site, (February 9, 2008), profile of Pennypaker.