Thursday, March 24, 2011


 Times are tough.  People are out of work.  Families are losing their homes.  Sometimes, you might not know where your next meal will be coming from or when.  But if you’re eating then you are one of the fortunate ones, even if it is beans for dinner, yet again.  Yup, it’s the Great Depression of the 1930s though some parts of this scenario might seem more contemporary.

And, in Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell (823 B539L PIC BK), times are tough for the Loman family, too.  Dad is out of work, Marshall now shares a bedroom with his younger siblings because Aunt Minnie and Uncle Matt have moved in, and he’s sick-to-death of eating beans for dinner.  In spite of all the difficulties, there is a lot of love in this household with everyone pitching in as best they can, making do, and fixing what can’t be replaced.

On the way to school one day, Marshall spots a large jar of beans in the window at a local store which could help alleviate the money crunch at home.  The person who can come closest to guessing the correct number of beans will win a brand new sewing machine.  This is just what Marshall’s mother has wanted and would enable her to take in sewing.  Marshall also figures that his mother would be the best person to make a good guess as she is an expert on beans cooking them every day.

With so much riding on guessing the right number of beans, it’s paramount that it be as close as possible.  The story then, quite naturally, shifts its focus to how Marshall’s family will work out their guess, looking to make an estimate based on measuring and counting the number of beans held in varying-sized containers.

This is a great picture book that combines a good family story, a slice of history, and math, making this a good selection for classroom use to introduce measurement and estimating. But the story is strong enough on its own that it doesn’t have to tie into a math lesson to make it work.

Recommended for elementary grades.


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