Penny and Her Marble

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Penny and Her Marble Book Poster Image
Moral dilemma, more emotional depth in cute Penny story.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A bit of a lesson in emotional intelligence as Penny is troubled by having taken something off a neighbor's lawn that she didn't have permission to take.

Positive Messages

Make sure it's OK to take something from someone's private property or you might end up feeling guilty. Say thank you when someone gives you something nice, no matter how small.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Penny is a polite, thoughtful girl who feel uncomfortable when she fears she may have taken something she shouldn't have. She takes responsibility to set things right and returns the next day to put the marble back where she found it. She's also wonderfully imaginative in her play, pretending, alternately, that she's in a forest, flying in an airplane, or in a boat on the sea as she strolls the sidewalk with her doll Rose in a tiny doll stroller. Mrs. Goodwin is kind and generous. Penny's mom is attentive and notices when Penny seems to be troubled about something.

Violence & Scariness

Penny dreams that the marble grows so big it smashes her dresser.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Penny and Her Marble is the third volume in the Kevin Henkes series that began with Penny and Her Song, featuring an adorable little girl mouse and her warm family. Here Penny faces a moral dilemma after she spots a shiny blue marble on a neighbor's lawn, takes it home, and hides it. Worried that she shouldn't have taken something that wasn't hers, she sets out to return it the next day, and is surprised by her neighbor's response. Emotionally layered and engaging, Penny and Her Marble may spark some interesting discussions about how doing something you're not sure is right can make you feel.

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What's the story?

Penny takes her doll Rose (introduced in Penny and Her Doll), for a stroll in the stroller and spots a shiny object on Mrs. Goodwin's lawn. It's a pretty blue marble that's "like a piece of the sky." She takes it and stealthily brings it home. She worries that Mrs. Goodwin will miss her marble (even dreams she comes to demand it), and the next day she guiltily puts it back where she found it. As she's leaving, Mrs. Goodwin comes out an, to Penny's surprise, asks, "Oh, Penny, don't you want that pretty blue marble?" She explains that she put it there, hoping someone would find it. She assures Penny it's hers now, and Penny returns hope happy and relieved.

Is it any good?

PENNY AND HER MARBLE is a surprisingly complex follow-up to the simpler Penny and Her Doll, and has more of the nuanced emotional punch of the series starter, Penny and Her Song. Author-illustrator Kevin Henkes gets inside the head of a thoughtful little kid with a moral dilemma -- afraid she may have taken something she shouldn't have, and anxious to put things right so she can stop feeling uncomfortable. Her thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility is rewarded, thanks to the kindness and generosity of a neighbor.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about why Penny is troubled after she takes the marble. Have you ever done something you didn't feel good about afterward?

  • If you read the other books in the Penny series, how do you think this one compares?

  • Penny seems so much like a regular kid. How does having an animal in the kid role help make the story work? Are books with animal characters more fun than ones with human characters?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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