Connecting everyone to the world of story

Image Alt

Story Links

  /  Reviews   /  Middle Grade Readers   /  Leeva at Last

Leeva at Last

Written by Sara Pennypacker

Illustrated by Matthew Cordell 

Reviewed by Zewlan Moor 

Delightful, but not entirely fresh, Sara Pennypacker’s latest book is a departure from the previous Pax and Clementine series she is best known for. 

Leeva Spayce Thornblossom is eight or nine. No one has told her for sure and she has never celebrated her birthday with a cake. She lives with her mother, Mayor Thornblossom, and her father, the Treasurer of their town. Her life is governed by strict rules, including no venturing outside the yard and no school. 

Leeva is forced to cook and clean for her parents, until one day she can bear it no longer. She wants to get to know some of the people she sees outside her fence. Most of all she wants to know, What are people for? She has asked her parents, but her mother’s response, They’re for looking at you and making you famous, and her father’s, They’re for making you rich, have been unsatisfactory. 

So, one day she escapes through the hedge and enters the house next door, which happens to be a library. There she is piled up with ten books a day, which go some way to helping answer her question. But of course, the real answer comes when she is forced out to meet new people in the community and listen to their stories. 

Leeva comes to see that this simple act of listening is so important for many of the people she comes across. And she is able to file away little nuggets of knowledge that help to tie up many loose threads in the plot by the end of the book. There are delightful scenes with her new pet badger and her quirky friends, one of whom wears a Hazmat suit and sprouts insurance salesman propaganda. I’m sure many children raised in the post-pandemic world will understand the parody. 

Although at times the narrator’s address to the “Reader” seems a bit overdone, and the nods to librarians a tad trite, this is a sweet and relatively fast-paced story. Leeva’s ingenious plan to forge banknotes would provide a fun science/domestic science/art tie-in lesson and the book would work well as a read-aloud for Years 2-4. Matthew Cordell’s black-and-white illustrations are altogether more sweet than Quentin Blake’s, but the tone and feel of the book as a whole is reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. That is where it’s not entirely a bad thing if the book isn’t fresh. Matilda is probably due for a makeover, and it’s wonderful to see Leeva devouring modern classics, such as Because of Winn Dixie and New Kid. The Thornblossoms are enamoured with fame and money the way the Wormwoods are with TV. Leeva At Last would be a great choice for fans of Matilda.

Teaching Guide

HarperCollins 2023

1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

Error: Contact form not found.

Free shipping
for orders over 50%