Working in the blanking room at the U.S. Mint was not an easy job. It was hot, loud, and Rosie was confused. Even though she was supposed to feed a sheet of zinc coated steel into the blanking press, Rosie fed a sheet of copper. With the press of a button, 40 copper blanks were made.
Rosie panicked. The president ordered that the U.S. Mint not use the copper for coins so it could be used for the war effort. Not knowing what to do, Rosie let the coins proceed to the next stations where they were washed and “pinched” to create rims keeping her fingers crossed that nobody found out.
The copper blanks were fed into the press along with the zinc-coated steel blanks and thus was born Penny, a 1943 copper cent.
The Wishful Penny is the story of Penny’s adventure from her accidental birth, to an ice cream shop, across the Atlantic, back again, and how one wish made on Penny comes true.
Written for readers in grades 3-5 with a story that can be appreciated by younger students, The Wishful Penny written by J.J. (Jennifer Jo) Young, co-founder of the publisher See the Wish, surrounds the story of a wish made on a penny as it is thrown into a fountain with factual information about the coin and conditions. The story opens with the book’s Rosie, a name obviously chosen, who never worked before but was thrown into working at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia because the men were off at war. It mentions that President Roosevelt order that copper be preserved for the war effort and even approaches the angst of the time with relative off at war and businesses hoping for survival in difficult times.
The use of factual information makes the story more appealing. Forget the fact that I am some-number-of-many-years beyond the target age group for this book, it has the ability to not only teach the students but also the teachers who may have not thought about using coins as a teaching tool. If a teacher wants to use this book for classroom instruction, the authors offer a teacher’s kit that includes books, worksheets, discussion questions, activities, history tie-ins, and script with a CD of music to allow the students to perform the book as a play.
Aside from the history, the book teaches about real world perseverance from the perspective of Penny, whose optimism about carrying her wish is a good lesson for all children. While having optimism is good, the book also teaches how there is a long road to fulfilling goals that comes with the bumpy road of life. As someone who grew up with parents who wanted me to skin my knees because learning not to was as important as losing the game in order to understand life is just not handed to you, the book portrays that as a series of disappointments. With optimism in tact, Penny goes from the fountain where she meets the silver coins, to Ireland where she lives in a safe with other coins, to running away from thieves, and helping catch them before being mailed back to the United States and finding that a coin is different from the stamps that make the journey with her.
If you buy the book individually, it will come with a CD with 12 songs interspersed with acted audio scenes from the book. It is not exactly faithful to the dialog in the book, but your youngster may not mind. Remember, that the music is intended for your children and that an adult may request their child listen with headphones. After growing up with Peter, Paul and Mary, I am not sure I would have ever like the music. Since I am not the target audience I am not going to complain! However, the audio CD could be just the thing to keep your child busy for an hour during a long drive.
You can also buy the book as an audio CD. The audio book is read by January M. Akselrad, the other co-founder of See the Wish. Ms. Akselrad reads the book just like you would expect to a younger audience. However, I found myself re-reading the book along with her thinking that this might be good for a student who may have a difficult time reading to follow along while listening to the book being read for them.
Although I am not a teacher, I can see using the audio CD with the books in order to show visual highlights of story but the history it shows. Since I was not provided the teaching materials, I can only hope the authors provide teachers with this information.
Coins can teach us a lot about history and history can teach us a lot about ourselves. Although the exact reason for the existence of the copper 1943 cents can only be speculated, turning it into a story for children works on so many levels. I even like that the person who found Penny only to realize she was special was a girl learning about collecting coins. Add to that the collector who buys the coin was a woman is also a lesson that this should not be a male-dominated hobby!
I did not know what to expect when I agreed to review this book. But I was surprised how engaging it was even for a “vintage” person like me. Even though Penny ends up at less than an Mint State (MS) grade by the end of the book, I grade this book MS68 with a recommendation that if your young reader does have reading difficulties also purchase the audio CD. In fact, you may want to consider purchasing the teacher’s kit and donate it to your child’s school. Or for the classes looking to put on a play, why not consider the full-length musical with recorded music. It has to be a great idea for teachers needing new material!
POST SCRIPT FOR PARENTS: After your child reads the book and she wants more information about coins and collecting, let them vista the U.S. Mint h.i.p. pocket change website. “H.I.P.” stands for History In your Pocket, which best describes how many of us see coins.
POST SCRIPT FOR TEACHERS: After your class read this book and performs the play, I would recommend teachers visit the U.S. Mint teacher’s website for additional resources to using coins in the classroom. Who knows, maybe we can turn you and your students into numismatists!