Friday, April 18, 2014

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Rating: 5 stars

On Wednesday, Lorelei told us that Kevin Henkes was her class's author of the month.  We've been fans of his for years--he is an author to remember on the days when you have exactly 3.4 minutes in the library.  He's written enough books to fill your library bag.  You'll be in and out of the library before your toddler throws his tantrum.  Promise.  (I know, I know, parents aren't supposed to throw out empty promises like that one, but…)

Penny and Her Marble is one of his newest books.  It is one of three sweet little beginner reader chapter books (the other two: Penny and Her Song and Penny and Her Doll) about a young mouse learning important moral lessons.  They are wonderful gems of books!

In Penny and Her Marble, Penny strolls along with her doll Rose and finds a beautiful, shiny, new, blue marble near Mrs. Goodwin's house.  She picks it up and appreciates its beauty in her little hand, telling her doll all about it.  She walks home with it, feeling like she's found buried treasure.

But then her conscience--that wonderful thing that is still forming in our kids' little brains--kicks in.  She starts to wonder if she did the right thing.  She wonders if she stole something valuable from Mrs. Goodwin, rather than innocently found a lost item.  Did Mrs. Goodwin miss it?  She feels guilty and concerned and worried, though Henkes never uses grown-up words such as guilty or concerned or worried (or stealing or thief or innocent).  Instead, he shows us her face and how her sleep and eating is interrupted because of her thoughts on what was right and what was wrong.

"Isn't it pretty, Rose?"
Penny decides to go and return the marble the next morning.  She strolls back over with Rose and plops it back in the grass where she found it.  But Mrs. Goodwin walks out and calls after her.  Penny's heart pounds.  Her cheeks are hot. She cannot speak.  Mrs. Goodwin says, "I found the marble yesterday.  It was in the back of m kitchen drawer.  I thought someone would love it.  That is why I put it in on the grass by the sidewalk.  I hoped someone would walk by and see it."

"I did see it, but I put it back," says Penny.  (She did the right thing!)  But Mrs. Goodwin puts it in her hand--she gives Penny permission to take the marble.  Penny is overjoyed!  Penny is relieved, and I tell you, Lorelei, Ben and Kiefer and I were all relieved, too.  (When you feel for a character, that's a mark of a good book for sure).  And she thinks it is smoother and shinier and bluer and more beautiful than ever (because her conscience is burden-free).

I love the discussion we had over dinner after this book.  Did she do the right thing?  What would we have done?  How did she feel in the beginning, and then at the end?  Kids realize sooner or later the hard reality: there are no totally right answers.  Just mostly right, and mostly wrong.  They've got to have the skills to think clearly and weigh options and choose wisely.  Books like this one give us parents the opportunity to have good discussions in a safe environment about what is right and what is wrong.  And how we love them even when they make a not-so-awesome choice...and how we cross our fingers and hope they don't make the same mistake over and over again.  "On to new mistakes!" we say in our house.

P.S.  The kids and I watched a short video about Kevin Henkes on his website (click HERE).  It was informative and fun to see him show us all the books we've read by him, but the kids were most impressed with how well he drew with just a few quick strokes of his paint brush.  They were really impressed.  Also on the website is his mailing address.  Guess who is getting three pieces of fan mail sometime soon?

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