Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes. Green Willow Books, 2013. Currently available.
Age Level & Genre: Picture book fiction.
Face Value: It looks like every other Kevin Henkes book, which is to say that it looks very mild and pleasant. There’s nothing wrong with that. Why mess with success?
Does it break the slate? For an introductory reader level picture book, this book handles the issue of right and wrong in an interesting way. Penny has to deal with an ethical dilemma. Although she hems and haws, she ultimately makes the admirable choice. Although she isn’t a Slatebreaker, she is modeling smart decision making skills that any young reader could learn from.
Who would we give it to? New readers who want to practice their reading skills with some familiar characters.
Review: Penny enjoys a small amount of freedom when she gets to take her doll, Rose, on a walk. She encounters a beautiful blue marble laying in the grass by Mrs. Goodwin’s house and decides to take it home.
Soon, Penny starts to regret her decision. She has an inkling that it maybe wasn’t the right decision to take something that doesn’t belong to her and was located on someone else’s property. Penny fills uneasy, but she never tells her parents about her decision to take the marble.
This is what I love so much about this book. Penny makes the choice to return the marble completely on her own, without an adult stepping in to tell her what is right or wrong. Henkes is acknowledging that children have a developing sense of ethics and can use those instincts to make good choices. She learns that open conversations are valuable to clearing up a misunderstanding, and she moseys on to have a great day, feeling much better about herself. Henkes is teaching ethics without being didactic. It’s a simple story, but the simplicity is what is beautiful about it.
Reviewed from a library copy.