CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
Penny is a delightful girl who happens to love peanuts and comes to the realization that her fondness of peanuts is a result of their flavor. In Carol Szuminsky’s unfolding of the story, however, it becomes obvious that the real reason “why Penny loved peanuts” goes beyond a mere sense of taste. Penny loves peanuts because she is a curious child who notices and wonders and uses what she knows to investigate. The reader quickly discovers through Penny’s actions that there is a lot more to a peanut than first meets the eye. It is the portrayal of Penny’s attentiveness, in all of its spontaneity and non-linear progression, that creates an interesting story of what’s possible in just minutes of a child’s life.
Why Penny Loved Peanuts begins with a trip to the grocery store. Penny sees a display of roasted peanuts still in their hulls, and she asks her mother to purchase one bag. As soon as the groceries are carried into their house, Penny retrieves the bag of peanuts and, with her mother’s permission, heads upstairs to her bedroom to estimate the number of peanuts contained in the bag. She begins by counting those she can see and then runs into difficulty when it becomes impossible to distinguish those that have been counted from those that have not. So, she opens the bag, forms piles of ten peanuts each, counts by tens, and estimates that the number remaining uncounted when added to the number counted must be 222, her favorite number. As she begins to count to compare her estimate to the actual number of peanuts, she gets distracted by visual, tactile and sound information. First, she notices the variety of shapes, then the sizes. These observations are followed, in sequence, by observations of the colours, textures, sounds, smells, and patterns of the peanut hulls. In the end, Penny removes the peanut kernels from their hulls, takes off the paper-like seed coat or skin covering the kernels, and studies the visible embryonic parts of the edible peanut, which she knows as a seed. Her desk is covered in hulls, skins and kernels when her mother walks into the room to tell her dinner is ready. Because she appreciates Penny’s curiosity and understands the reason for the “mess,” she helps her to organize the clean-up, and they are soon making peanut butter in the kitchen.
The story is followed by Penny’s peanut butter recipe, a recipe for “chocolate peanut butter layers” that resemble a homemade version of Reese’s “Peanut Butter Cups,” and seven “Peanut Activities” that build upon the activities Szuminsky describes Penny doing and which extend into reading, research, crafts, and a challenge to walk while “balancing a peanut on your nose.” All come with a caution to those with peanut allergies.
Why Penny Loved Peanuts is Carol Szuminsky’s first book for children. It is modeled after her daughter, Kristan, whose child-like pencil crayon drawings illustrate the story, and all of the other inquisitive Grade 2 children Szuminsky has had the good fortune to teach. Given the focus on estimating, counting, and observing the characteristics of the peanut hull and kernel, the book would be a good addition to an Early Years classroom or school library.
Barbara McMillan is a professor of early years science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.