cover image Gum


Nancy Willard, illus. by Jeff Newman. Candlewick, $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7774-9

The late Willard’s powers of observation make this story a delight. She starts at the crack of dawn, when James approaches his parents’ bed to ask for his allowance. “What can you do with five quarters at six in the morning?” his mother asks. “I can look at them,” James replies. James’s friend Danny has some quarters, too, and both boys are after the sleek silver race car sitting at the bottom of the gum-ball machine at Mr. Wright’s store. The shrewdness with which James and Danny discuss their situation and strategies (“I bet if you jiggled the machine, that racer would go plunk on the floor”) will endear them to readers. Newman’s vintage-y ink illustrations convey energy and tension as suspense mounts—suspense that dissipates when James’s “lucky” Canadian quarter causes the machine to jettison its contents in a spray of candy and toys. Willard treats the boys and their plan with dignity, and the minute-by-minute narrative—more chapter book than picture book text—lets readers savor the details. Ages 4–8. [em]Author’s agency: Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Oct.) [/em]