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GUM by Nancy Willard


by Nancy Willard ; illustrated by Jeff Newman

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7636-7774-9
Publisher: Candlewick

Two white boys ply the gumball machine with their quarters, pursuing the elusive silver racer toy in this picture book.

It’s 6 a.m., and James would like his allowance of five quarters. His mother, still in bed, counts them out for him. One quarter is a Canadian quarter, and when James asks if it’s “lucky,” his mother replies “Oh, yes.” After school James meets up with Danny at Mr. Wright’s store, where there is a gumball machine with a silver racer toy in it among the gumballs. One by one they insert their quarters. Many gumballs and other prizes come out, but no silver racer. Finally, all that is left is James’ lucky Canadian quarter. Newman’s angular illustrations excel at expressions and postures and have a retro look: the boys are snub-nosed and wholesome-looking, the women wear perky ponytails, the shopkeeper is beefy, and everyone in the story is white except for one black man, who is a customer at the store. Willard’s present-tense narrative has a pace and cadence that never swerve as it smoothly brings readers to the conclusion of whether the Canadian quarter was a lucky one or not.

A clever, polished story whose lively illustrations reinforce the retro theme.

(Picture book. 4-8)