Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Tony Ross (9781481491020, Amazon)
Binny’s family has been concerned with money since her father died. They live in a house that is far too small for all of them, her sister has sold all of her possessions to pay for flute lessons, and her mother works extra shifts all of the time. So when Binny sees a large amount of money left behind in an ATM, she grabs it and takes it. Does that make her a thief or just lucky? Binny soon discovers though that she can’t spend the money without others asking lots of questions. So she hides it, then hides it again and again until she can’t remember where she hid it! Meanwhile, Binny’s neighbor seems to be putting curses on all of them, like Clem’s flute breaking and James losing his best friend over buried treasure. As Binny realizes she has to be honest about the money, she has to find it first and figure out just who may have taken it.
This is the third Binny book and it’s just as charming and fantastic as the first two. McKay has a gorgeous way of writing, showing her characters and families complete with messy homes, money problems, and everyday woes. She always gives her characters lots of heart and big imaginations so that even normal days turn into adventures and bad decisions turn into mysteries.
As always, McKay’s families are ones that you want to spend even more time with. Readers will want to climb behind the couch with James, explore Clem’s bare but lovely room, share the birthday cake, and explore the beaches. The love in this family overflows the pages, even when they are distracted with their own problems. In fact, a hallmark of McKay’s books are that the children do the figuring out and realizations, not the adults. It’s a refreshing look at the power of children when they are given plenty of freedom.
Another winner from McKay! If you haven’t met Binny yet, make sure to start with the first since they are all such a treat. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel, illustrated by Serge Bloch
Told in the voice of the penny itself, this picture book follows the life of a penny in public circulation. With a humorous tone, the book explains that pennies are often ignored or lost and then whisked back into use again. The metals that modern pennies are made of are compared with older pennies who would have been this penny’s parents and grandparents. Throughout the book, the journey of being spent and then being spent again and again is told. It’s enough to make all of us value the humble penny much more.
Siegel’s text is filled with humor and wonderful moments. Like the mourning of being sucked into vacuum cleaners multiple times or the pride of knowing that even though pennies are worth less than dollar bills, they are much stronger and last longer. There is a great flow to the book, moving from one place to the next in a series of hops and jumps that work to set a nice pace. The tone is one of information mixed with simple life lessons making this very readable.
Bloch’s illustrations are almost comic format but without the framing. He has dynamic loose line that creates characters who pass through the penny’s life quickly. Real pennies and other currency are used in the illustrations.
Funny and informative: that’s my 2 cents. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (InfoSoup)
Ruben would love to have a bike like his friend Sergio has. Even though his birthday is coming, Ruben knows that he doesn’t get presents like bicycles. His family is large and there’s not enough money even for all of the groceries they need some weeks. One day when he is at the store for his mother, a lady in front of him drops a dollar bill. Ruben picks it up and puts it in his pocket, but when he looks at it later he discovers it’s actually a one-hundred dollar bill! That’s enough for him to get the bike he’s always wanted. Now Sergio has a dilemma, does he give the money to his family for groceries? Does he give it back to the woman? Or does he buy the bike of his dreams?
Boelts has created a story that is much more than a lesson in morals. This story is about ethical choices yes, but also about economic disparity and families living on the edge. It is a story told with real subtlety and offering an understanding of what would drive a child who is good at heart to steal what they thought was a dollar. It’s a book about the stories we tell ourselves to make our decisions “right” and the way that doing the right thing may not always be easy or clear.
The illustrations by Jones are modern and rather quirky. They fill the page with the vividness of the urban setting. The love and caring of Ruben’s family are also celebrated in the illustrations.
Subtle and smart, this book about decisions and doing the right thing asks all the right questions. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rosie’s Magic Horse by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Rosie collects popsicle sticks that she finds on the ground, creating a collection. But the popsicle sticks miss their cold sweet ice and wish that they were something more than just discarded sticks. Maybe they could be a horse! Meanwhile, Rosie’s parents are worried about bills and how they will pay them. That night Rosie and the popsicle sticks head out on an adventure together as the popsicle sticks join to become a horse, Stickerino. Rosie wants to find treasure and first the horse takes her to a mountain made of popsicle ice, but Rosie wants real treasure. You know that that means pirates! This story is a true flight of imagination, or perhaps a gallop!
Hoban and Blake are quite a team in this book. Hoban writes in mostly dialogue here and throughout has a focus on brevity and clarity. It works well against the wild imaginative nature of the book, making the text a firm foundation from which to launch. Blake’s illustrations are quintessentially his with their jaunty lines and loose watercolor tones.
Perfect for inspiring bedtime dreams of popsicles and horses, this book requires you to just go along for the ride. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Little Croc’s Purse by Lizzie Finlay
This little morality story features Little Croc who found a purse one day. He had to decide if he was going to return the purse with its money or keep it all for himself. He decides to return the purse, but on his way to the police station, he meets with several temptations. He manages to avoid spending any of the money and once he’s at the police station finds out that the woman who owns the purse wants to meet him. When she arrives, she checks for a special locket in a hidden pocket and then leaves the entire purse and the money for Little Croc. Little Croc doesn’t spend it all in one place either, leading to a very satisfying conclusion to this book.
Finlay manages to make not only a morality tale, but a picture book that works as a story as well. While there is definitely a moral about honesty here, the story is about more than that. Her writing is light-toned and even the moment with the bully is brief and easily handled. This helps lift the tone of the entire book.
Her whimsical illustrations also do that with a tiny crocodile lugging a very large, very flowery, rather pink purse. Even better, when Little Croc does buy something for himself, it is a pair of very red boots. He also never shrinks away from carrying the purse and owning it as his own after it has been given to him.
A book about honesty, thoughtfulness and caring for others, this book is sweet and jolly. Keep it in mind for parents looking for books about manners and honesty for preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Start Saving, Henry! by Nancy Carlson
Carlson’s Henry books are always inviting discussions of concepts. In this book, Henry is faced with the task of saving his allowance to get a more expensive toy. He had been used to just spending his money as soon as he got it, until he wanted a $30 Super Robot Dude. So week-by-week in $5 increments he saves his money. Of course, it’s not that easy. He buys a comic book which sets him back. Then he loses a library book that he has to pay for himself. He reaches his goal in the end, but not before one more surprise changes things again!
Carlson’s ability to write a full story in very few words is remarkable. She is concise and simple, allowing the humor of the circumstances themselves to get laughs and groans. Her bright-colored art is done in an almost child-like style that is very friendly. This is an ideal book to introduce saving money and sound finances to children because it is kept very simple and to the point.
Fans of Henry will love this new book and it is sure to create new fans of the series as well. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.