Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finders Keepers?

When I'm out with Xena hiking in the woods, walking along the lake shore or strolling down the road in a state park, I'm always looking; scanning my natural surroundings for possible photographic opportunities.  It's like a continuous treasure hunt.  Maybe I'll spy a Petoskey stone, stones in the shape of a heart, leaves of unusual shape or color, a dropped bird feather, beach glass or, if fortunate, the sighting of some animal caught unaware by our presence.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, life will cast an unexpected discovery in your line of sight or along your path.  Depending on what it is, you may be content to stop and only look or the urge to make it your own will rule the day.  Kevin Henkes introduced us to a joyful mouse girl in Penny and Her Song (Greenwillow Books, February 28, 2012) (reviewed here) followed by Penny and Her Doll (Greenwillow Books, August 21, 2012).  In the newest title, Penny and Her Marble (Greenwillow Books, February 19, 2013) the happy-go-lucky, lovable character has mixed feelings about a choice she makes.

Penny was pushing her doll, Rose,
in her stroller.
They went back and forth
on the front sidewalk.

Per her Mama's request, Penny can only walk as far as Mrs. Goodwin's house.  As she goes to and fro her imagination is in full swing; they glance at the tall buildings of a city, hope they don't get lost in a deeply wooded forest and consider objects below as they float among the clouds in an airplane. Right before one of her turnarounds Penny spies something round and blue on Mrs. Goodwin's lawn.  The old-as-time should I or shouldn't I debate begins and ends.

Back home in her bedroom Penny marvels at the shape and speed of her newest treasure.  To her the color makes this marble seem like a piece of the sky.  In fact, going to her bedroom window, she sees the two are a perfect match.

Oh, oh....she also sees Mrs. Goodwin standing in her yard in the same spot Penny found the marble.  Guilt consumes her.  It takes away her joy in baking cookies, eating dinner and even falling asleep.  Before breakfast the next morning, Penny announces she and Rose would like to take a walk.

We readers know where they're going and why.  Penny and her companion, pushed in her baby-doll stroller, walk into an early morning surprise.  On the way home they're bouncing on the wavy waters of the sea in a boat; a sea the same color as the marble in her hand.

In this third early reader title, Kevin Henkes is asking us to expand our reading abilities; following Penny, watching and learning as her personality shapes and grows.  To each subsequent book Henkes has included another chapter; the first has two, the second has three and this volume has four chapters. Unlike the first two books, Penny and Her Marble extends into two days' activities; we see a change of clothing.

Henkes use of language, word choice and sentence structure, is exactly what this reading audience needs. His ability to convey precise emotional moments with spare text is gifted.  We readers feel empathy for Penny and continue to appreciate the portrayal of the family unit through the caring dialogue of Mama and Papa.

The pleasing pastel color palette used in the two previous books is continued in this title although with a shift to blues and greens on the jacket and cover.  The solid color, sky blue, on the opening and closing endpapers matches the chapter enumerations as the endpaper colors did in the others.  Beneath the title (on the title page) a small square illustration features the place, activity, where Penny's story will unfold.   In this and each of the other books the illustration on the back cover is repeated with the dedication.  There is a symmetry and attention to detail in these books which exudes warmth and comfort.

Full color illustrations are rendered in watercolor paints and black pen ranging in size throughout.  At times Henkes will provide a single black line frame around his pictures; other times a partial frame at the bottom or none at all.  His visual layouts and size contribute to the form and flow of the storyline perfectly.

Having greatly enjoyed Penny and Her Song and Penny and Her Doll, it was hard for me to believe this title could be better but Penny and Her Marble written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes is the best one yet.  This is sure to be a storytime favorite and will be popular with beginning readers.  The link embedded in Kevin Henkes name will take you to his official website.

To view all of the videos created about and by Kevin Henkes follow this link to TeachingBooks.net.  Mr. John Schumacher teacher librarian and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. hosted an author visit with Mr. Henkes.  It is highlighted along with pictures and videos here.  Follow this link to the publisher website to browse inside Penny and Her Marble.


  1. How could I have missed this series(and I call myself an avid Kevin Henkes fan)? Penny looks delightful. Thanks for all the links and another lovely review. :)

    1. With so many wonderful books being published, it's hard to keep up; lucky us. You're welcome. Thank you for the kind words.