Mary's Penny

Overview

With whimsical illustrations, a feminist fable proves that brains outweigh brawn when three siblings enter a most enlightening competition.

Long, long ago, in the golden, olden days, a farmer devised an ingenious competition to determine who should inherit his farm. Which of his children — Franz, Hans, or Mary — could fill the house with something that cost a mere penny? Did straw do the trick? Were feathers sufficient? Or did it take something a little more creative? Tanya ...

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Overview

With whimsical illustrations, a feminist fable proves that brains outweigh brawn when three siblings enter a most enlightening competition.

Long, long ago, in the golden, olden days, a farmer devised an ingenious competition to determine who should inherit his farm. Which of his children — Franz, Hans, or Mary — could fill the house with something that cost a mere penny? Did straw do the trick? Were feathers sufficient? Or did it take something a little more creative? Tanya Landman’s retelling of a traditional tale, illustrated with Richard Holland’s stylish artwork, reminds us that sometimes the greatest value can be had for only a penny.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"With your one penny," says a farmer who must judge which of his two sons will run the farm after he's gone, "you must each buy something that will fill the whole house." Landman (The Goldsmith's Daughter) uses an engaging homespun voice to tell the story of Hans, Franz, and their quiet sister, Mary, who, although overlooked by her father ("because this was long, long ago--way back in the golden, olden days" when "everyone thought that girls couldn't run farms"), is the only one to fulfill the request successfully. She buys a candle (which fills the house with light) and makes a reed flute (which fills it with sound), winning her father's praise--and the farm. Holland's (The Museum Book) collaged figures have delicately drawn faces, overalls, and bumpy, oversize shoes (they're photos of real shoes). Blimplike Franz looks as if he is floating as he attempts to maneuver his overflowing horse cart of hay, while solitary Mary has a sideways glance and a Mona Lisa smile. Soft colors and the lightest of lines echo the gossamer touch used to deliver the feminist moral. Ages 5-7. (July)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This contemporary feminist folk tale with echoes of many traditional stories begins "long, long ago." A farmer is trying to decide who should run his farm after he dies, his sons brawny Franz or beefy Hans. He does not even consider his clever daughter Mary. He decides to set each lad a task. He gives each a penny, telling him that he must buy something with it to fill their entire house. Franz tries with straw, but fails. Hans tries feathers, also in vain. Then, to the farmer's surprise, Mary asks for her penny. With just a lit candle and a reed flute, she fills the house with light and joy. Her father admits that with her wisdom she should run the farm. There is considerable sly comedy in the characters produced in mixed media. The three males are dressed as stereotypical farmers. What setting there is reflects that plain-ness. Detailed drawings of the local market add information on the rural life. Note the amusing contrasting family "photos" on the end pages. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763647681
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 7/13/2010
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,495,101
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 12.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Tanya Landman is the award-winning author of I AM APACHE, THE GOLDSMITH'S DAUGHTER, and many other books for young readers. She lives in Devon, England.

Richard Holland is the illustrator of THE MUSEUM BOOK by Jan Mark and THE TIME BOOK by Martin Jenkins. Richard Holland lives in Essex, England.

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