cover image ONE BRIGHT PENNY


Geraldine McCaughrean, , illus. by Paul Howard. . Viking, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03588-5

A book with a rural backdrop by British author McCaughrean (A Pack of Lies) produces a few incongruities for readers this side of the pond ("You foolish great lummocking girl!" says Pa, sounding more like Manchester than Missouri; and the pennies are silver rather than copper) but the story holds together as soundly as the barn that provides its setting. Pa gives his young sons Bill and Bob and his daughter, Penny, each a penny every Friday, but never without reminding them that one penny used to fill the barn with feed. When Bill retorts, "I bet I could fill the barn for one penny!" his father laughs mockingly and promises the farm to the child who can meet the challenge. He also adds that he'll stop giving the children pocket money if none of them can do it. Bill tries feathers from a turkey farm, and Bob makes thousands of candles, but only clever Penny really finds a way to fill the barn. Her father laughs with delight, not cruelly, as he used to, but "a big, ringing laugh that filled the old barn right up to the roof beams." Howard's (The Bravest Bear Ever) illustrations create a tall-tale mood with a softening of the edges of his confident pencil strokes; the children's faces may be round and sweet, but their expressions as they plot to win the farm are strikingly true-to-life. This tale of inventiveness is right on the money. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)