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The Penny Predicament (The Coin Chronicles) (Volume 2) Paperback – May 7, 2016
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About the Author
Veola Vazquez, Ph.D. is a psychologist and professor who specializes in childhood issues. She lives in southern California with her husband and children. Visit her website at veolavazquez.com or Amazon Author page.
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The Penny Predicament is one of the most well-written and cleanly edited middle grade books I have read in a while, and while I have some philosophical issues with the messages being conveyed, other readers may have different interpretations and take-aways. It is a good story with interesting characters and twists, and there are lots of life lessons to be learned with plenty of talking points (Christianity, parenting, consequences, and obedience to name a few.) Author Veola Vazquez definitely made me think.
Main character, twelve year old Jake, is a great kid, and he's realistically written. His heart is in the right place, and he shows empathy, sympathy, and a willingness to put others before himself. Like any kid his age, he sometimes strays from his core values and doesn't always make the best decisions. Jake's parents are strict and don't seem particularly warm, loving, or even kind. Some of that is understandable given the tense situation with the father being unemployed, but the implication is that it's never been an overly loving house. Jake almost seems threatened (definitely intimidated) by how his father interacts with him. There is a part where Jake sees his parents in an argument, and the father says to his wife that he is the leader of the house and he will make the decisions. . . that didn't sit well with me and is not a marriage model that I would like children to have in reading a story. Happily, Jake has a wonderful grandfather, richly written and interesting, to counter the stringency of his parents' relationship and parenting strategy.
The pace is steady, then speeds up to the climax, and then the story ends abruptly. Though readers get a resolution to the "Penny Predicament," there is no resolution to Jake's father's situation; I feel children reading the book need that resolution (or some indicator a resolution is forthcoming) or it may be upsetting and unsettling. Also, given the message that God will take care of the faithful, the decision of what is done with the penny doesn't make sense to me. Maybe the penny was God's way of helping this family? Jesus would give it to the poor. . .
Despite my issues, there are some great models of behavior in the book from Jake and Jake's parents, grandfather, and best friend. And again, Jake is an awesome kid who like most kids sometimes doesn't think before he acts. But when he has missteps or failures, he picks himself up again and again -- and that's admirable. However, I feel like the lesson kids will learn is that they will be punished for trying to be helpful and for putting others before themselves, and that selfless acts and sacrifice aren't needed because God will take care of us if we sit around and wait for Him to do it. Perhaps that is true, perhaps not. I intend to read book one, The Nickel Nuisance, to see if it sheds some light on the aspects I found troubling in the book. Stay tuned.
Thank you to the author for giving me a print copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give. (Watch for book three in the series, The Quarter Question!) If you like this review, visit my blog Hall Ways for book views, reviews, and news you can use - or not. kristinehallways.blogspot.com
The best part of this book is the main character. Jake King is such an awesome name for a protagonist but I think I loved it so much because Jake doesn’t actually behave like a king. He is quirky, awkward, and almost always nervous. But those are the things that made him so loveable.
Jake is a brave young man who finds out that his father has lost his job. Upon hearing this news, he decides it’s his job to help the family out in their financial struggles. After finding a mysterious coin, Jake gets caught up in a series of unfortunate yet entertaining events that lays the foundation for an adventurous story.
Vazquez is a Christian psychologist and both her faith and her background are evident in the story. She picks her words carefully and puts an emphasis on family matters and the way in which they impact the lives of children. My biggest compliment would definitely be on the diversity in Vazquez’s cast. Jake is a mixed-race boy whose mother is described as having ‘pale’ skin while his father has brown skin, which left him with a tan complexion.
I’m always on the lookout for diverse books and I think it’s great when an author queries me with an African-American cast or Hispanic cast but diverse doesn’t just mean having a black lead character. Mixed races are important too and I think Vazquez understands that very well. I will point out that the actual race of the characters is somewhat left up to imagination as only the skin is described, not the exact ethnicity. But that’s what made me enjoy it even more. Jake’s parents could have been black and white or Hispanic and black, or just a lighter toned Hispanic and darker toned Hispanic. The race is never outright named which leaves the door open for readers to imagine the characters as their own ethnicity or another one. For a book written for younger audiences, I believe this is probably the best way to approach race.
Now, my only complaint about this book would be the illustrations. I really hate criticizing the pictures because I am not an illustrator so I don’t think I have the necessary experience to properly critique someone’s work. However, in this book, the illustrations were so large and unrelated to the writing, I actually found them distracting. I think I felt this way because most of the illustrations weren’t pictures, they were the last few words of a random sentence increased in font by ten times and placed smack in the middle of the page. Then the pictures that were actually illustrations looked more like scribbles in the back of someone’s notebook than pictures that belonged in such a wonderful novel. Don’t get me wrong, the pictures were quirky just like the cast and story but I just wanted and expected more.
I would recommend this story to readers of all ages. Christian audiences will definitely appreciate this book more than others but anyone looking for a solid read full of diverse characters and excellent adventures then this is the book for you.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Most recent customer reviews
Jake King is in a predicament. After finding out that his dad got laid off from a job, he’s worried that his family will have to move away...Read more