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Mary's Penny Hardcover – June 7, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books Ltd (June 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1406319503
  • ISBN-13: 978-1406319507
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,163,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 4–A farmer can't decide which of his two sons should take charge after he is “dead and gone,” so he challenges each of them to fill the house with a penny's worth of something. When neither of the young men can carry out his mission, he reluctantly allows his daughter to try. Despite the fact that “Everyone knows that girls can't run farms,” Mary fills the house with music from a simple, handmade reed flute and with light from a single candle, and her humbled father chooses her to run the farm. You see, Mary's “very special, secret something” is “brains.” Holland's stylized mixed-media illustrations don't quite mirror the hyperbolic descriptions in the text. The “brawny” Franz–rotund in the illustrations–is said to have hands “as big as stone slabs.” Hans has “feet the size of rowboats” (actually, a largish pair of laced black '40s-era shoes). Clothing cut from patterned paper; shoes clipped from photos; penciled facial features; watercolor backgrounds; crayoned trees, water, and clouds invite viewers to search each page for unusual detail, like the tiny people in medieval dress in the market scenes and the small black cat that is present on most pages. While the oversize gray text is quite readable, the names of Franz and Hans, printed in large, bold type, and Mary's in large italics, are jarring. This retelling of a “feminist fable,” with its redundant references to the inferiority of girls, just doesn't measure up to the wealth of excellent folk tales, picture books, and novels that feature strong female characters.Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

From Booklist

In this wry, spare retelling of a feminist fable, set in the “golden olden days,” a farmer worries about which son will be in charge when he is dead, Frans or Hans. He never thinks of his daughter, Mary: “A girl can’t run a farm.” He tests his sons by giving each one a penny to buy something that will fill the whole house. Frans buys a huge cartload of straw, but with all his efforts, it only fills half the house. Hans tries with feathers, but though he works hard, he also fails. Mary says quietly that “it takes brains not brawn,” and she proves herself by filling the house with light, knowledge, music, and joy. The spacious collage illustrations show the males in old-fashioned overalls, the farmer with spectacles, and Mary in a long dress, figures at times reminiscent of American Gothic. Along with the feminist message, kids will also enjoy the basic triumph of the unnoticed family member. Grades K-3. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on July 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Once upon a time, a farmer needed to make an important decision. Which of his beefy sons, Hans or Franz, would inherit his farm? He did not consider his daughter, for at the time, no one believed that women could operate a farm. The man came up with a competition: the farm would go to whichever son could fill the house with something he purchased for a penny. When both sons failed, Mary had an opportunity to prove that it took brains rather than brawn to win such a competition and to run a farm.

This adaptation of an old fable provides young readers with a lighthearted story about the value of money as well as the transfer of property rights. Mixed media images in a folk art style help to set a timeless mood in which one could easily imagine how spending a penny could influence a large inheritance.
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By MLG on January 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hurrah for girls/women. Brains over brawn! Agricultural angle - many women run farms/ranches and have the brains to keep things going. There are plenty of ways to get the heavy work done, just be creative. That's what Mary did.
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By teacher and mom on August 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
I love this book. It is beautifully and cleverly illustrated and tells a folktale I'd never heard of before. A story that teaches the value of light, wisdom, music and joy over that of material goods is always welcome in my home. Excellent and original!

That being said, I do wish they had not used the phrase "feminist fable" in describing the book. I am the mother of two girls and I suppose I fit the description of a "feminist." However, labels like this have no place in the world of children's literature. Don't let the description fool you--it's a valuable story and beautiful book for anyone, boy or girl!
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