Project Description


Pennies in a Jar

by Dori Chaconas
illustrated by Ted Lewin

“The day 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. Lots of things scare the boy, especially Josephine, the street horse who pulls the ragman’s wagon, and Nell, the milkman’s nag, with its big teeth and wild eyes. Even Billy and Bucky, the garbage wagon horses whose feet are so big and heavy, make him nervous. Then one day a stranger with a small pony named Freedom offers the boy an opportunity to give his father the perfect birthday present and 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, circumstance, and his own fears. Illustrator Ted Lewin’s stunning paintings capture the simple spirit of the 1940s home front.

Format: Hardcover
Price: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-422-8
Publication Date: 9/1/2007
Page Count: 36
Size: 10-1/2 ̎ x 10-1/2 ̎
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English
AR Level: 2.9
F&P: GRL O, Gr 3, Genre HF
Lexile: AD690L
Themes: Courage, Family Life, Horses, World War II Home Front


“Lewin’s photorealistic watercolors take advantage of the large double pages and capture the heartbreak and anxiety of a youngster whose father has gone off to war. 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

“Parallels to current events, including parents with military duty and gasoline availability, make this story of a boy growing up during World War II extra-accessible…. Chaconas’s narrative hits the right notes, and Lewin’s shimmering watercolors are sun-splashed and copper-kissed, with studies in scale allowing the reader to get a real sense of the child’s perspective.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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

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“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

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

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Best Children’s Books of the Year ―Bank Street College of Education, 2008

CCBC Choices (Picture Books for School-Aged Children) ―Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 2008

The Original Art ―Society of Illustrators, 2007

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Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (Starred, Primary) ―Kansas National Education Association, 2008

Volunteer State Book Awards (Master List, Grades K-3) ―Tennessee Association of School Librarians, 2010-2011

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

Arthur Tofte/Betty Ren Wright Children’s Literature Award (Honorable Mention) ―Council of Wisconsin Writers, 2007

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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.