Irish Penny
Book #3 in the Our Canadian Girl series, Penelope

Review from the Hamilton Spectator, August 9, 2003.

Perhaps the best new series for young Canadian readers is the Our Canadian Girl, in which important events in our history are recounted through the eyes and lives of ordinary Canadian girls Canadian girls. We’re told about more than a few; the writing and stories have been superb, the girls both resourceful and brave.

It’s a different kind of bravery now required of Penelope Reid, whom we met in Penelope: Terror in the Harbour, which told of the devastation from the horrible explosion in Halifax in the First World War. In Penelope Book Three – An Irish Penny by Sharon McKay (Penguin, $8.99) we pick up Penny’s tale as she’s sent to live with her rich aunt and grandmother in Anglo Montreal, and forced to attend a strict for-the-upper-crust school for girls.

Penny’s relations may be monied but Penny’s family is poor in funds but rich in spirit. When Penny darkens the door of Miss Porter’s School for Girls, it seems everyone knows Penny’s story: how her incredibly beautiful mom who could’ve had any man she wanted ran away with a dashing but dirt-poor Irishman. The very word, Irish, is uttered by some schoolgirls as if it were a dirty curse. (It is a time when help-wanted notices specifically forbade the Irish from applying.) Everyone thinks it is a waste that Penny’s mom would do something as shameful as throw away her birthright on a dirty Irishman. 

How Penny handles this situation and her homesickness and her isolation (her two young sisters have been sent to live in Toronto as her father helps to rebuild Halifax) is a wonder to read, and could very well set your eyes to brimming.

McKay is among our favourite CanKidLit writers. Her Charlie Wilcox and the more recent Charlie Wilcox’s Great War are two of the best young adult novels.

So for a fabulous read drenched in resourcefulness, loyalty and love, let Penny by your Canadian Girl.


To read about all the books in the Our Canadian Girl series go to