So often we look for something new, something unique, something we've never seen before. It is exciting to be surprised by a punchline or a new style, but there is something even more thrilling in the surprise of new things that feel familiar. Kevin Henkes uses his unique style to tell a nuanced story in his Penny books. In some ways, the plot lines feel very simple (typical of any beginning reader) - but, when you really look at them, you see how cleverly he has introduced his characters and their personalities. They are reminiscent of the classic Francis or Frog and Toad stories - books that tell real stories with relatively complex characters.
It seems unbelievable that Kevin Henkes didn't win the Geisel award last year with his first two Penny books, but hopefully he can nab it this year with Penny and Her Marble. It may not be the most flashy or loud beginning reader, but it certainly is my favorite of the year so far.
This quiet story is one that will stay with you and is also completely relatable. I would think most children have, at one time or another, taken something (or found something) that didn't belong to them. We can only hope they would have a similar pang of conscience and learn from Penny.
Even though these books are clearly marketed to girls (I love the flowery covers), even boys should appreciate the well-told stories and fun pictures.
Penny and Her Marble
by Kevin Henkes
Published by Greenwillow Books