A Penny in Time by Anna Bartlett
At a first glance I would expect this book to have very limited appeal. The cover art is very plain and almost looks like the hundreds of ‘readers’ primary students are expected to read. Cheap and boring!. But it was short, and at this time of the year I really don’t want to get caught up in massive amounts of reading for kids. I am far more interested in reading for myself.
But once opened, this turned out to be a charming read. Bartlett has constructed a tale about a lonely child building a relationship with his grandmother. At first they are complete strangers who really don’t like each other very much. Eventually Yared is caught snooping in his nanna’s room and in his surprise, spills her box of treasures all over the floor. Among the treasures are some old coins that he does not recognise and these become the basis for a series of bedtime stories centred around an old penny.
The stories are simple and each builds an understanding of a single event in Australian history from federation to the introduction of decimal currency. At one level, the ‘reader’ level, this is what the book is about. But each story also involves Yared coming to understand his nanna a little more and her growing patience with the little boy. And this is the story I found most heartening.
No this is not great literature. It may not even be good literature, but I don’t resent the hour or so it took to read. There was nothing annoying and I am confident that many 8-12 year olds would enjoy this little book.