Friday, July 20, 2012

MARY'S PENNY by Tanya Landman

Landman, Tanya. Mary’s Penny. Illus. by Richard Holland. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4768-1. $15.99 US

In a time long ago, an old farmer faces a dilemma: which of his two sons will inherit and run his farm? He proposes a challenge: the son who could, with one penny, buy something that will fill the whole house would inherit the farm. But the old farmer has forgotten something very important: his daughter Mary! When both sons, Franz and Hans, fail to complete the challenge, Mary asks for her penny, and she succeeds, filling the house with “light and knowledge and music and joy.”

Landman’s retelling of the feminist fable uses a beautifully traditional folk-style voice, perfect for reading aloud. Holland’s illustrations, made in mostly cut-paper mixed media, are whimsical and child-like. The two brothers, one beefy and one brawny, are portrayed almost as caricatures, and Holland’s manipulation of scale keeps the reader just enough off-balance so as to evoke whimsy, as if the characters are floating through their own landscape.

Mary’s Penny is a beautifully told text with a great message, perfect for school or family.

Marisa Behan

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