Siegel, Randy One Proud Penny; illus. by Serge Bloch. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2017 [40p]
ISBN 978-1-62672-235-4 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4
You want to meet a guy who’s been around? Say hi to the penny. Born in 1983 in the Philadelphia Mint, where most of his family is from, he’s seen it all and done it all: freezing on a garage floor over the winter in Wisconsin, languishing under a stamp machine in Ohio. He’s been bounced around in dryers, sucked into vacuum cleaners, slept under the grate of a sewer drain, picked from a pocket, and (perhaps the unkindest cut of all) spent on a pair of purple polyester pants at (where else?) J.C. Penney. He’s not as coppery as his ancestors—or as steely as his 1943 great-uncle—but he’s still got some panache, as he’s continually picked up and stashed away in drawers and jars and bowls and backpacks, biding his time for one more adventure. Our garrulous penny narrator and his kin are photographs of the real thing, personified by Bloch with a few deft ink strokes for facial expression and spindly ink limbs for mobility. Their history and exploits play out against largely white background, with settings and humans roughly sketched in and enhanced with some reckless splashes of color. A closing note offers a whirlwind history of American coinage, packed with plenty of quotable trivia and a discussion of whether the penny has outlived its usefulness. “So what’s a penny worth these days?” the penny himself inquires; “It depends on whom you ask.” Costing double its face value to make, it’s worse than worthless—but it’s also “the most widely used coin currently in circulation.” Sounds like the start of a lively primary-graders’ debate.