Penny and Her Song (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

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Penny loves her song. It's a good song, a really wonderful song. Will it ever be the right time to sing it?

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Penny loves her song. It's a good song, a really wonderful song. Will it ever be the right time to sing it?

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Editorial Reviews

Kristi Elle Jemtegaard
Kevin Henkes's first venture into the beginning-reader format is simple proof that less is not only more, it is nearly perfect. Amazingly, this little book shows how much emotion can be conveyed in two short chapters of 73 exceedingly concise sentences, many made up of four words or fewer.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Henkes (Little White Rabbit) introduces a musical mouse who must wait for the right moment to share her talent with her family. When Penny walks in the door, ready to belt out the counting song she learned at school, her mother gently quiets her. “Your song is beautiful,” says Mama, “but you will wake the babies.” Penny gets the same reaction from her father, and she fidgets until mealtime. At the table, her parents ask her to hold off again. Finally, the whole family gathers for Penny’s solo, a catchy rhyme from one to 10. Henkes gives Penny a whole spread to herself, allowing her time in the spotlight. Mama, Papa, and the babies smile and join in for subsequent performances, an activity that has the welcome effect of helping Penny’s younger siblings fall asleep. Much as he did in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Henkes presents an irrepressible heroine who struggles to compromise. Through measured characterizations, Henkes helps readers understand why Penny must be patient. Just as important, he models how parents can respond thoughtfully to an attention-seeking sibling. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Henkes successfully enters the world of early readers in this gentle story of Penny's attempt to divert her parents' attention from the babies to her. Penny's created a song and she is desperate to sing it for them, only to be told several times "Not now." Singing to her mirror or to her glass animals just doesn't do it for her. She tries again at dinner, but of course there's no singing at the table! Her parents help her find the right time to perform; and, after hearing her song, they join in on the next round, and the next, and the next—until singing and laughing has made them all exhausted and put the babies to sleep. Writing for the early reader crowd demands limited vocabulary and can lead to limited storyline, but Henkes has overcome that limitation with a simple, but meaningful, story of patience and understanding. His signature watercolor and ink illustrations in relatively bright shades show both action and emotion and are well placed throughout the text. Unlike Julius, this is not so much a story about jealousy as it is about Penny's finding her place in the family, about expectations and fun, and making memories. Reviewer: Peg Glisson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In this mild, two-chapter tale for beginning readers, Henkes once again touches on the challenges of being an older sibling. Penny is a young mouse bursting to sing a song to her parents that she has just learned at school. But disappointingly, every time she begins to sing, her parents ask her to stop. "'Your song is beautiful,' said Mama, 'but you will wake up the babies." Singing to herself in the mirror or to her glass animals just isn't the same, so Penny tries again at dinner. "'Not at the table,' said Mama. 'After dinner,' said Papa." Finally, before bed, Penny gets her chance to perform. The whole family joins in and soon discovers that the youngster's song has helped lull the babies to sleep. The narrative here is light on drama and character growth. Penny is neither as charismatic nor immediately lovable as some of Henkes's other, well-known protagonists. However, families seeking easy vocabulary and an old-fashioned story with positive, sass-free family interactions will appreciate this gentle read. Pastel-hued watercolor and ink illustrations of Penny and her smiling mouse family (done in classic Henkes style) brighten each otherwise clean, white page. Fans of the author who have graduated to independent-reader status will be glad to see his familiar hand at work on the easy-reader shelves.—Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Penny sings a joyful song that resonates in her happy mouse family. At first Mama and Papa are reluctant to hear the song that Penny made up, because they fear she might wake the babies. So she sings to herself in the mirror and to her collection of glass animals, but that's not very satisfying. Finally, after dinner she sings her song, and her parents make a real show of it, wearing costumes and singing with her again and again. All this excitement tires everyone and puts the babies to sleep in their basket. At bedtime, Penny worries that she will forget her song by morning, but when she wakes up, her special song is still with her. Penny joins Lilly and Owen in Henkes' pantheon of mouse children. She is delightfully human as she seeks to divert her parents' attention from the new babies. Henkes' signature crisp and bright watercolor-and-ink illustrations depict every action and emotion and appear in a variety of shapes and sizes, centered in line with large print text and surrounded by white space. He has visited this theme before, in Julius the Baby of the World, but here there is no overt jealousy, and the sweetness level is higher. A charming, child-friendly take on the ever-popular new-baby theme. (Early reader. 3-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780606268479
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/21/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,452,004
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes is the author and illustrator of many books for children of all ages—among them are Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Chrysanthemum, and Wemberly Worried. He was awarded the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon, a Caldecott Honor for Owen, and a Newbery Honor for Olive's Ocean. He lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.


Kevin Henkes still owns some of his favorite books from childhood. "They're brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings," he says in an interview on his web site.

Back in his peanut-butter sandwich days, Henkes dreamed of becoming an artist. By high school, he had combined his love of drawing with a newfound interest in writing, and at age 19, he took his portfolio to New York City in hopes of finding a publisher. Young Henkes returned home from his weeklong trip with a contract from Greenwillow Books, and he's worked as a children's writer and illustrator ever since.

Henkes's style has evolved over the years to include more humor, more whimsy and a lot more mice. Though he began illustrating his picture books with realistic drawings of children, he's since developed a recurring cast of mouse characters rendered in a more cartoon-like style -- though with a range of expressions that make the spirited Lilly, anxious Wemberly, fearless Sheila Rae and sensitive Chrysanthemum into highly believable heroines. Owen, the story of a little mouse who isn't ready to give up his tattered security blanket, won a Caldecott Honor Medal for its winsome watercolor-and-ink illustrations.

Many of Henkes's mouse books deal with such common childhood ordeals as starting school, being teased and getting lost. Chrysanthemum, about a mouse whose new schoolmates tease her about her name, was inspired by Henkes's own feelings when he started school. "The book is about family, and how starting something new and going out into the world can be very hard," he told an interviewer for The Five Owls. "I remember going to kindergarten -- my grandfather had a beautiful rose garden, and he gave me the last roses of the season to bring to the kindergarten teacher the next day. I don't even remember how it happened, but an older kid took these flowers from me on the playground, and I remember coming home, feeling awful." As a grown-up, Henkes is able to translate difficult childhood transitions into stories that are both honest and reassuring. In a review of Chrysanthemum, Kirkus Reviews noted: "Henkes's language and humor are impeccably fresh, his cozy illustrations sensitive and funny, his little asides to adults an unobtrusive delight."

Henkes has also written novels for older children, in which he "explores family relationships with breathtaking tenderness" (Publisher's Weekly). In The Birthday Room, for example, a twelve-year-old boy learns the reason for his mother's long estrangement from her brother, and helps effect a reconciliation. "Refreshingly, Henkes has given us a male protagonist who is reflective, creative and emotionally sensitive," wrote Karen Leggett in The New York Times Book Review. "Ben feels the anguish of his mother's long-simmering bitterness and his uncle's agonizing guilt. Yet at a time when it is almost a fad to blame dysfunctional families for problems, we learn that even though there are never simple answers and not many fairy-tale endings, families can heal."

Though his novels are more complex and serious than his picture books, all Henkes's works suggest an author with deep empathy for the intense emotions of childhood. As a Publisher's Weekly reviewer wrote, "Behind each book is a wide-open heart, one readers can't help but respond to, that makes all of Henkes's books of special value to children."

Good To Know

Henkes's wife, Laura Dronzek, is also an artist. She painted the cover illustration for Henkes' novel Sun and Spoon and illustrated his picture book Oh!.

Henkes has turned down requests to use his mouse characters in a television series, but some of his books are available in video form in Chrysanthemum and More Kevin Henkes Stories. The video's narrators include Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mary Beth Hurt.

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse has been adapted into a stage play.

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    1. Hometown:
      Madison, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 27, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      Racine, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin, Madison
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012


    Tried on Nook Simple Touch, Android Nook app, iPad Nook app, and Surface Nook app. Shows as incompatible on all of them.

    Might have been nice to know that _before_ I'd paid for it...

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012

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