Richie's Picks: PENNY AND HER MARBLE
Richie's Picks: PENNY AND HER MARBLE by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow, February 2013, 48p., ISBN: 978-0-06-208203-9
"It is often determined that children under the age of eight cannot always tell right from wrong or tell reality from imagination. That is why age eight is referred to as 'the age of reason' for children to be able to be on their own. Therefore, many libraries will have a policy that children must be eight to be in the library without adult supervision."
-- Penny Peck, from CRASH COURSE IN CHILDREN'S SERVICES
"Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed"
-- Bob Dylan, "My Back Pages"
"After Mama and Papa left her room, Penny looked at the marble. It was still so blue and so smooth and so shiny. Penny put the marble back in her dresser.
"She kept thinking about the marble.
"When Penny did fall asleep, she dreamed. She dreamed that Mrs. Goodwin was knocking at the door, yelling 'Where is my marble?' Then Penny dreamed that the marble grew so big it broke her dresser to bits."
Penny is uncharacteristically blue. Why? While she is out walking with her doll Rose, she spies a really groovy blue marble sitting on old Mrs. Goodwin's front lawn. Rationalizing her decision, and making sure that no one is watching, she pockets the blue marble. Now, upon reflection, she develops increasing feelings of fear and guilt and, after a tough night of dreaming, she returns the marble back to Mrs. Goodwin's lawn. The story ends well because old Mrs. Goodwin wants her to have the marble after all.
PENNY AND HER MARBLE is a book you need to have. Get it if you don't already have it.
That aside, the real issue for me is how we present this story to our students, patrons, and offspring. Is it our desire to instill fear in children so that they do the supposed "right thing" out of that learned sense of fear no matter what the circumstances? Do we want to stamp out any belief in life's occasionally offering fortuitous little treasures? My fear is that well-meaning adults will use this book as a tool for promoting a black and white view of stealing and other issues of morality.
Instead, I would be talking to children about how, throughout their lives, they will repeatedly be approaching forks in the road where they need to make choices about what their heart tells them is right. We can and should seek to teach our children empathy and compassion for others, including the child who has had something lost or stolen. I'm big on teaching them to put themselves in the place of others and to "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." [Matthew 7:12]
But I'm not one who wants to be involved in fostering fear and suspicion in young children. I prefer them learning to think for themselves and to learn their own hearts.
The reality is that many of the forks in the road we encounter offer multiple choices, and that often none of them are simple or completely ideal or fair. And so I am less keen about presenting this book as "Penny learns about not taking things that don't belong to her." and more about it being "Penny finds something beautiful, takes it home, and eventually finds within herself what the right path is for her in the situation.
Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/ http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php