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Lucky Beans Review by Jenny Thompson

Becky Birtha
IllustratorNicole Tadgell
Albert Whitman & Company
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320
Park Ridge, Illinois 60068

Becky Birtha used her grandmother's recollections of the Depression to write the lovely story, Lucky Beans. Gorgeously illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, this book gives children a glimpse into this difficult time in our country's history.

Marshall's family has endured hardships, but their bond has only strengthened as they've had to work together. Sometimes, though, things start to bother Marshall, like having beans for dinner every night. One day, while walking by the furniture store, he spies a sign in the window advertising a contest to win a sewing machine. How he would love for his Ma to have the machine she's always wanted! Thankfully, the harsh realities of racism don't thwart his Ma's chances of winning, and she enters the contest. The winner must guess how many beans are in a huge container in the store window. Marshall helps his Ma come up with a clever way to make an educated guess using all the beans his family has in the cellar. His Ma wins the contest, enabling her to sell the clothing she makes and thereby creating a better life for her family.

I love this book for its simplicity as well as the way it scratches the surface on the complex matters of racism and poverty. Children who read Lucky Beans will be intrigued by this time period and may even want to know more about it. I was also delighted to read a book with mathematics woven into the story line so well. Marshall recalls what he has learned in school about educated guesses and uses that knowledge to come up with an answer that is very close to the correct number of beans. Homeschool families will surely appreciate this math connection. The kindness of the church women who bring beans to the family, the positive view Ma has of life, and the willingness of the shopkeeper to stand against racism are all topics that can be discussed in greater detail.

The age suggestion for the book is 4-8, but I believe that readers of all ages will appreciate this wonderful story. Lucky Beans is sure to become a favorite to be read over and over. Please take the time to share this treasure with your children.

Product review by Jenny Thompson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2010