The Hard-Times Jar

The Hard-Times Jar

5.0 2
by Ethel Footman Smothers, John Holyfield
     
 

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A look at the life of migrant workers through a child's eyes

Emma Turner loves books and dreams of one day having the store-bought kind, but the Turners are migrant workers and money is tight. That means "no extras," so Emma must be content to make her own stories and books. Emma has a plan, though – she's going to save all the money she earns

Overview

A look at the life of migrant workers through a child's eyes

Emma Turner loves books and dreams of one day having the store-bought kind, but the Turners are migrant workers and money is tight. That means "no extras," so Emma must be content to make her own stories and books. Emma has a plan, though – she's going to save all the money she earns picking apples and put it in Mama's hard-times jar. Then there will surely be enough for extras. But when Mama tells Emma that this year she has to go to school instead of to work, it spoils everything. Now she will never own a store-bought book! But school turns out to have a wonderful surprise in store for Emma.

Based on Ethel Footman Smothers's childhood, the story is brought to life with lush acrylic paintings, giving us a touching portrait of a book-hungry child.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Smothers's tale movingly attests to the rewards of hard work, honesty and of having dreams.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Based on the author's childhood, this inspirational story stands as a tribute to a strong family facing hard times...Filled with descriptive language, the text flows smoothly and clearly describes Emma's enthusiasm and fears.” —New York Public Library

Publishers Weekly
Smothers's (Down in the Piney Woods) tale movingly attests to the rewards of hard work, honesty and of having dreams. Eight-year-old Emma and her family have "[come] up on the season," from Florida to Pennsylvania, to harvest crops as migrant workers. Emma loves books, but her family cannot afford "the store-bought kind," so she writes her own stories on brown paper connected with safety pins. When new ideas distract Emma from watching her younger siblings or picking apples, her mother warns: "Do you want me to hide that pencil?" Emma works to help add money to the family's "hard-times jar," hoping some day to buy a book. Debut illustrator Holyfield uses color to understated yet dramatic effect. Earthy browns and greens convey both the austerity of the family's one-room home, and the lush orchards where they work. He movingly portrays Emma's turning points: her mother holding her, gently telling Emma that she'll be going to school; Miss Miller, her teacher (whose "face reminded Emma of buttermilk"), introducing Emma to a classroom of white children ("She had never gone to school with people Miss Miller's color. Down south it was not allowed"); the teacher pulling aside long red drapes to reveal the school library. After Emma's mother discovers that she has sneaked home library books, Emma stands before the teacher, her posture (feet together, hands clasped, the incriminating books on the teacher's desk) capturing the trepidation of a child's confession to a respected adult. The book closes with an uplifting scene of Emma's mother giving her coins from the hard-times jar, recognizing Emma's need for her own book. Ages 4-8. (Aug) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Emma longs to own a real book and writes her own on scraps of brown paper bags. As a daughter of African-American migrant workers, she has rarely gone to school until she shows up at Miss Miller's Pennsylvania third grade while her family is picking apples. There, even though Emma has never gone to school with (white) people Miss Miller's color because down south it is illegal, she discovers the classroom library. There she may read all that she wants but she just can't take the books home. Emma, however, really needs books and smuggles out two of them under her sweater. But Mama discovers them and asks tenderly "What must you do?" When Emma returns them, Miss Miller forgives her and Mama, proud of her daughter's courage, gives her six precious quarters from the hard-times jar of savings so that she can buy her own...what? Book? Notebook of clean paper? It isn't clear from the text but it probably doesn't matter to readers who will be drawn both to the satisfaction of purchasing something that will continue Emma's literary bent and to the sturdy, elongated depictions of Emma, Mama, and Miss Miller. Lush blocks of painted colors, the canvas textures evident, depict the rural landscape and surround the figures of this loving family. Emma's corn-rowed hair and wide-eyed expression make her easily spotted in story hours and the artful composition of the pictures puts her as the focal point of most pages. It is a welcome picture-book debut for fine-artist Holyfield and Smothers' second picture book. 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 5 to 8.
— Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Based on the author's childhood, this inspirational story stands as a tribute to a strong family facing hard times. Emma and her family are migrant workers who follow the crops to make a living. Passionate about books, the girl longs for a store-bought volume, but knows that the few coins her mother saves in a jar are for no-money days. Arriving in Pennsylvania, Emma, her parents, and younger siblings pick apples together, but then Mama tells her that she is to attend school now that she is eight. Nervous because she is the only "chocolate-brown" child in the class, which could not have happened in her still-segregated Florida home, Emma soon discovers the riches of the school library. Desperate to read, she takes two volumes home for the weekend, against the rules. A kind teacher and a firm but understanding mother lead to a happy ending. Filled with descriptive language, the text flows smoothly and it clearly describes Emma's enthusiasm and fears. The richly textured browns, yellows, and greens of the paintings evoke a warm, orderly, and nonthreatening environment, reinforced by the mother's long arms reaching out and embracing her children.-Susan Pine, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Emma longs to own a book of her own, a real book, from the store. But money is "scarcer than hen's teeth" for Emma and her migrant worker family. Any extra money goes straight to the "hard-times jar," in case things get really bad. Emma makes her own books out of pieces of grocery bags and any other paper she can find. She contributes her own apple-picking wages to the jar in hope that some of the money might someday go towards a book. Soon Emma's mother insists that it's time for Emma to go to school. Third-grade teacher Miss Miller takes Emma under her wing and into her library, filled with real books. When Emma breaks the rules and takes a book home, she's forced to confess her transgression and her mother figures it might be time to make a withdrawal from the hard-times jar. Holyfield's warm illustrations reflect the innocence and simplicity of an earlier time. Pair this with Amada Irma Perez's My Very Own Room for another winner about the hunger for books. (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374328528
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
08/28/2003
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
254,938
Product dimensions:
11.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile:
AD520L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Ethel Footman Smothers lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

John Holyfield lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

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The Hard-Times Jar 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
SimoneMJ More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this story to my son. It is a good story to read during hard economics times. The story teaches children about saving for a rainy day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Hard-Times Jar, by Ethel Footman Smothers was published in August 2003. It is a story that is designated for young children age four to eight, yet it has the ability to bring smiles to anyone⿿s face. The story begins when Emma Turner, the daughter of a poor migrant working family, who do not have access to Emma's one true love which are books. Emma longs to own a real book, and when she turns eight and must attend school for the first time, she is amazed to discover a whole library in her classroom. The author's use of descriptive language does, however, allow the reader to connect to Emma's longing for books and provides the reader with an opportunity to appreciate what is so easily taken for granted. This book conveys a message of honesty and perseverance, and reminds me of ⿿A chair for my mother,⿝ by Vera Williams, where the characters support each other to reach a goal as they do in Emma⿿s family. After reading this wonderful book that contains rich descriptive language with wonderful illustrations, I was able to transport myself into the Pennsylvania setting. The way Ethel Smothers pictures the crops allows the text to run nice and calm. It also reminds me of the visits to my uncle⿿s farms back in South America, where the sun was always bright and the climate was so inspiring and smooth. I was able to connect to Emma in the same way she did with her family. They were close to one another, and encouraged each other to be honest no matter what the circumstances, as I am with my family. This wonderful story is brought to life with flourishing acrylic paintings, giving its readers a touching portrait of a book-hungry child growing up in a family of migrant workers. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about being determined, honest, and supportive in order to reach their goals.