The Peabody Elementary School Talent Show is a source of anxiety for Penny, who has no clear talent.
Jelly, Penny’s small black-and-white dog, is her best friend, sticking by her as she tries to figure out what her talent is, no matter how loud, uncomfortable, or unpleasant that process might be. From playing the tuba and juggling to jumping rope and designing doggy fashions, Penny fails at them all. But it’s not for lack of trying or a shortage of determination. Multiple lists and lots of ideas later (magic, yodeling, ballroom dancing), the exasperated Penny finally just crosses the talent show off her list. She doesn’t want to share her “untalentedness” with the whole school. But when Penny reaches her lowest, her dog comes through for her, showing her just what the two of them are best at, and readers will not be surprised at the award they win. Heder’s illustrations appear to be watercolors, and they capture both Penny’s outsider status among other kids and her close relationship with her pooch, who is always at her side. Spot illustrations and white backgrounds work well to show the many activities attempted, and the lists with crossed-off items speak volumes about Penny’s rising frustration level.
Penny and Jelly are sure to warm the hearts of both future talent-show contestants and readers who have similarly close canine friends. (Picture book. 4-8)