Like so many people during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Marshall Loman’s dad has lost his job. There’s little money, but there are plenty of beans—in fact, Ma cooks them for supper every single night! Beans start looking better when Marshall sees the contest posted in the furniture store window. HOW MANY BEANS ARE IN THE JAR? WIN THIS BRAND NEW SEWING MACHINE! Ma needs that sewing machine—but how can the Lomans possibly guess right? Then Marshall remembers something he learned in arithmetic class. Becky ...
Like so many people during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Marshall Loman’s dad has lost his job. There’s little money, but there are plenty of beans—in fact, Ma cooks them for supper every single night! Beans start looking better when Marshall sees the contest posted in the furniture store window. HOW MANY BEANS ARE IN THE JAR? WIN THIS BRAND NEW SEWING MACHINE! Ma needs that sewing machine—but how can the Lomans possibly guess right? Then Marshall remembers something he learned in arithmetic class. Becky Birtha’s engaging story, based on her grandmother’s memories of Depression years in the African American community, is illustrated by Nicole Tadgell’s rich paintings.
Gr 2–4—Money is tight during the Great Depression, and Marshall is tired of eating beans for dinner every night. When a local shopkeeper announces a contest to win a new sewing machine, he seizes the opportunity to make his Ma's dreams come true. The catch is that to win it, he has to guess how many beans are in a jar. Birtha effortlessly describes how Marshall and his mother use math to find their answer. Young readers thus will discover fun, realistic applications for the estimating and multiplication skills they learn in their classrooms. Math is not the only subject in Birtha's lively lesson plan, though. She also confronts the racism of the 1930s when a white girl tells African-American Marshall that he might not be allowed to enter the contest because "only white ladies can win contests." An author's note provides a brief description of the Great Depression and anecdotes from the author's family history. Tadgell's colorful illustrations, many full page, give the book an old-fashioned feel and include many period details, strengthening the text's usefulness for social-studies classes. Children will appreciate the story's humor and happy ending. Lucky Beans can be used across the curriculum to educate while it entertains. Ideal for classrooms and school libraries, it's also a strong choice for public libraries.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
History proves cyclical with this story of an African-American family living through the Great Depression. "Marshall didn't feel so lucky. The elbows of his jacket were worn almost all the way through. Dad had been out of work for months, and there was no money." The story, however, is not one of depression. The family works together to survive and finds moments of love, appreciation and sheer happiness. This moving tale not only relates a little history but also some math, as Marshall helps his mother estimate the number of beans in the furniture-store jar and ultimately wins a new sewing machine, which helps alleviate their dire financial situation. Tadgell's watercolor illustrations move the story and stir readers' emotions. A two-page spread of the contestants in the store teaches readers everything they need to know about the characters without a letter of text. Many children today can relate to the family's challenges, which makes the timing of this picture book sadly relevant. (author's note) (Picture-book. 5-12)
- Beverley Fahey
It is the middle of the Great Depression, and Marshall Loman's father has lost his job. With money scare, Mama seems to cook beans at every meal. She reminds her son that they are lucky to have beans. On his way to school, Marshall sees a sign in store window offering a free sewing machine to the person who guesses the correct number of beans in a jar. If anyone knows beans, it is Marshall. Assured that the contest is open to all and not just white ladies, Marshall involves his whole family in a clever method to estimate—not guess—the number of beans based on his recently acquired math skills. Their final tally is merely 13 beans shy of the total. With the newly won machine, Mama is able to take in sewing and alleviate some of the financial burden. The only negative for Marshall is that the jar of beans is now theirs too—enough beans to last a lifetime. This story is fitting for today's tough economic times, and along with the social studies and math connection, it will be welcome in any classroom. The author's note expands on this slice-of-life from her grandmother's experience and the Great Depression itself. Soft watercolors bring to life the 1930s and the warmth and togetherness of a loving African-American family. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
Becky Birtha lives in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. She is the author of Grandmama’s Pride, which received a Golden Kite Honor Book Award for Picture Book Text for 2005. She often eats beans, and among her most prized possessions is her grandmother’s sewing machine.
When Nicole Tadgell was studying art in college, she realized illustrating children’s books could be her life path. Nicole has illustrated fourteen books, including Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha and In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby. To get a feel for each book, she pretends she’s the child in the story, and does the things the child does. She lives in Spencer, Massachusetts, with her boys; husband, Mark; and border terrier, Boomer.