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MARY’S PENNY by Tanya Landman Kirkus Star


by Tanya Landman & illustrated by Richard Holland

Pub Date: July 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4768-1
Publisher: Candlewick

A grown-up girl ingeniously solves a puzzle, winning something she deserves. The farmer has three grown children: brawny Franz, arms “as thick as branches,” beefy Hans, legs “as thick as tree trunks,” and Mary, “neither brawny nor beefy,” arms and legs “as slender as sticks.” Perplexed as to which son should run the farm when he dies—“because this was long, long ago… and everyone thought that girls couldn’t run farms”—the farmer gives each boy a penny and a challenge to “buy something that will fill the whole house.” After they fail, intelligent Mary insists on a penny too, purchasing a candle (which fills the house with light) and a penknife to whittle a reed into an instrument (which fills the house with music). Holland’s calm, playful mixed media feature stylized figures of pencil and collage on pale backgrounds. As Mary carves, golden reeds grow beside her, symbolizing her flourishing future farm; when she plays music indoors, a vertically lined yellow wall continues that theme. Gentle humor runs throughout, and everyone’s happy at the end. A sweet, artistic fable in the brains-over-brawn genre. (Picture book. 4-7)