2014 Geisel Honor Award
The lovely, imaginative, curious mouse, Penny, is out walking her babydoll Rose through forests and up and down the fantastic pathways of her mind when she spots a beautiful, blue marble in Mrs. Goodwin's front yard. Penny is absolutely certain that this marble cannot belong to Mrs. Goodwin. She picks it up and holds it in amazement. What a beautiful marble.
So, the marble goes home to live at Penny's house and unfortunately it brings with it a little tickle. It's a tickle of worry and it starts to grow in Penny. Should she really keep the marble?
Everyone will recognize that itchy feeling that starts to get bigger and bigger when you really know you have made the wrong choice. What will Penny do now?
Recommended by: Barb
"It is often determined that children under the age of eight cannot always
tell right from wrong or tell reality from imagination. That is why age
eight is referred to as 'the age of reason' for children to be able to be on
their own. Therefore, many libraries will have a policy that children must
be eight to be in the library without adult supervision."
-- Penny Peck, from CRASH COURSE IN CHILDREN'S SERVICES
"Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed"
-- Bob Dylan, "My Back Pages"
"After Mama and Papa left her room, Penny looked at the marble. It was
still so blue and so smooth and so shiny. Penny put the marble back in her
"She kept thinking about the marble.
"When Penny did fall asleep, she dreamed. She dreamed that Mrs. Goodwin
was knocking at the door, yelling 'Where is my marble?' Then Penny dreamed
that the marble grew so big it broke her dresser to bits."
Penny is uncharacteristically blue. Why? While she is out walking with her
doll Rose, she spies a really groovy blue marble sitting on old Mrs.
Goodwin's front lawn. Rationalizing her decision, and making sure that no one is
watching, she pockets the blue marble. Now, upon reflection, she develops
increasing feelings of fear and guilt and, after a tough night of dreaming,
she returns the marble back to Mrs. Goodwin's lawn. The story ends well
because old Mrs. Goodwin wants her to have the marble after all.
PENNY AND HER MARBLE is a book you need to have. Get it if you don't
already have it.
That aside, the real issue for me is how we present this story to our
students, patrons, and offspring. Is it our desire to instill fear in children
so that they do the supposed "right thing" out of that learned sense of
fear no matter what the circumstances? Do we want to stamp out any belief in
life's occasionally offering fortuitous little treasures? My fear is that
well-meaning adults will use this book as a tool for promoting a black and
white view of stealing and other issues of morality.
Instead, I would be talking to children about how, throughout their lives,
they will repeatedly be approaching forks in the road where they need to
make choices about what their heart tells them is right. We can and should
seek to teach our children empathy and compassion for others, including the
child who has had something lost or stolen. I'm big on teaching them to put
themselves in the place of others and to "Do unto others as you would have
others do unto you." [Matthew 7:12]
But I'm not one who wants to be involved in fostering fear and suspicion
in young children. I prefer them learning to think for themselves and to
learn their own hearts.
The reality is that many of the forks in the road we encounter offer
multiple choices, and that often none of them are simple or completely ideal or
fair. And so I am less keen about presenting this book as "Penny learns
about not taking things that don't belong to her," and more about it being
"Penny finds something beautiful, takes it home, and eventually finds within
herself what the right path is for her in the situation.