About the book
Albert Whitman & Co.
Ages 4 – 7
Like so many people during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Marshall Loman’s dad has lost his job.
There’s little money, but there are plenty of beans—in fact, Ma cooks them for supper every single night! Beans start looking better when Marshall sees the contest posted in the furniture store window. “HOW MANY BEANS ARE IN THE JAR? WIN THIS BRAND NEW SEWING MACHINE!” Ma needs that sewing machine—but how can the Lomans possibly guess right? With lessons learned in arithmetic class and guidance from his mother, can Marshall’s best guess help him win the contest and the sewing machine his family needs? Becky Birtha’s engaging story, based on her grandmother’s memories of Depression years in the African American community, is illustrated by Nicole Tadgell’s rich paintings.
Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations move the story and stir readers’ emotions.
The expressive watercolor paintings show both the racism that Marshall and his family endure as well as his final triumph, and Tadgell folds in humor, as Marshall faces what looks like a lifetime supply of beans.
ISBN: 978-0807547823 PUBLISHED: 2010 FORMAT: Picture book
2012-2013 Arkansas Diamond Primary Award
- Named one of the CCBC Choices 2011, the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).
- Named one of the 2010 Notable Books for Children list
- Named one of the New York Public Library’s Best 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, 2010.
Kirkus ReviewsHistory proves cyclical with this story of an African-American family living through the Great Depression. “Marshall didn’t feel so lucky. The elbows of his jacket were worn almost all the way through. Dad had been out of work for months, and there was no money.” The story, however, is not one of depression. The family works together to survive and finds moments of love, appreciation and sheer happiness. This moving tale not only relates a little history but also some math, as Marshall helps his mother estimate the number of beans in the furniture-store jar and ultimately wins a new sewing machine, which helps alleviate their dire financial situation. Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations move the story and stir readers’ emotions. A two-page spread of the contestants in the store teaches readers everything they need to know about the characters without a letter of text. Many children today can relate to the family’s challenges, which makes the timing of this picture book sadly relevant
School Library JournalMath and wry comedy mix in this lively historical story based on Birtha’s grandmother’s memories of life during the Depression. Young Marshall describes his African American family’s hardship when Dad loses his job and then his relatives crowd into Marshall’s room. Worst of all are the beans Ma constantly cooks. Then a local furniture store makes an exciting offer: whoever guesses the number of beans in a huge jar on display will win a new sewing machine. If only Marshall could win the prize for Ma so that she could earn money by sewing. He works out a system to estimate (not guess) by counting the number of beans that fill a quart jar, and how many quarts fill up a crock . . . and his formula works! The expressive watercolor paintings show both the racism that Marshall and his family endure as well as his final triumph, and Tadgell folds in humor, as Marshall faces what looks like a lifetime supply of beans. An informative final note fills in more about the era’s history.
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