Project Description


Pennies in a Jar

by Dori Chaconas
illustrated by Ted Lewin

When Dad went away to the war, I cried. He hugged me and told me to be brave. But I was afraid of so many things…

A young boy promises to be brave when his father goes off to fight in World War II. But it isn’t always easy, especially now that he and his mother are alone and the air is punctuated by sirens.

Lots of things scare the boy, but he’s especially wary of the street horses: Josephine, who pulls the ragman’s wagon, and Nell, the milkman’s nag, frighten the boy with their big teeth and wild eyes. Even Billy and Bucky, the garbage wagon horses whose feet are as big and heavy as buckets full of iron, make him nervous.

Then one day a stranger with a small pony named Freedom offers the boy an opportunity to create the perfect birthday present for his father. But that means digging down deep inside to find a new and special kind of courage…

Dori Chaconas has written a sensitive tale about a son’s steadfast love for his soldier father that transcends distance and circumstance. Illustrator Ted Lewin’s stunning paintings beautifully capture the simple spirit of the 1940s home front.

Hardcover: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-422-8
Total Pages: 36
Size: 10 1/2 x 10 1/2
Language: English
Accelerated Reader
AR Quiz#: 122491
AR Reading Level: 2.9
AR Points: 0.5

F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: O
F&P Grade: 3

Reading Counts
Reading Counts Level: 3.7
Reading Counts Points: 2


“Chaconas conveys the language of the time (“lickety-split” and “humdinger,” for instance), and, even better, the perspective of a boy without his dad to protect him. Lewin’s sun-dappled, nostalgia-tinged watercolors lovingly depict the boy either in motion (in his eagerness to earn the pennies to buy Dad a birthday present) or at a safe distance from the big animals.” ―Booklist

“Lewin’s striking watercolors are filled with light and depth. An excellent author’s note, complete with photos and illustrations, explains how folks at home worked together to support the troops.” ―The Sunday Plain Dealer

“This quiet story takes readers back to a time and place very different from today, but one that will resonate with contemporary children…” ―School Library Journal

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“Chaconas’s narrative hits the right notes.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A good way to ease into discussion of parents in the military today.” ―Booklist

“…Pennies in a Jar is a quiet, subdued picture book that proves that the traumas of war cannot at all prevent the triumph of the human spirit…” ―Picture Book Depot blog

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Georgia Children’s Picture Storybook Award (nominee) ―University of Georgia 2010-2011

Meet the Author

Dori Chaconas is the author of several picture books, including Pennies in a Jar; Dancing with Katya; Christmas Mouseling;When Cows Come Home for Christmas; and Cork and Fuzz: Short and Tall. She lives in Wisconsin. You can visit her website here.

Meet the Illustrator

Ted Lewin has illustrated many award-winning books for children, including Pennies in a Jar and the Caldecott Honor Book Peppe the Lamplighter. He lives in New York. You can visit his website here.