Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Book About Money, Books, and Hard Times

Published in 2003 (2020 words)
This week's Read-4-Luck pick (the feature that acts as a recommendation, review, teaching tip, and writing lesson) is The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers, illustrated by John Holyfield.
"Emma, the daughter of poor migrant workers, longs to own a real book, and when she turns eight and must attend a new school, she is amazed to discover a whole library in her classroom."
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Year: 2003
Word Count: 2020
Book Level: 3.1

Age: 4-8
Topic: Money
Theme: Doing what's right (integrity)

 I was surprised that my son wanted this book a second time over another book we had previously read. He identifies with Emma's longing for something she loves. It's a great book with a good lesson, but a little long for younger children. 

 Teaches good morals. Fun to read in a thick southern accent, which isn't hard to do coming from North Carolina.

 Great introduction to a money, saving, or social studies unit about migrant workers. Great way to incorporate values into a character development lesson. Activity: have children write a story on torn pieces of brown paper bags.

 This is a good one to study to see how the word count works. More than 2,000 words for a picture book is pretty rare, even for the year 2003. Comb through the pages and make a list of cool phrases and action verbs. It is such a wonderful story! THAT'S why it was published. I'm looking forward to reading it again.

YOUR TURN: Think of a time when you had to make a tough moral decision as a child. How did you handle it? What did your parents do? Now compare your story to that of Emma's.

Be sure to visit other perfect picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. I just put The Hard Times Jar on my list. I like books with good morals. Thanks for sharing Christie

  2. Christie, sounds like an excellent book. I love book that incorporate virtures into the story. Integrity is a big lesson. Wish I knew more about the story and if the Money jar belons to the child or her family. I wrote many newspaper and magazine articles on the migrant workers in the 70s. It's a tough life for kids. Will need to get this book. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sounds like a good choice to share with kids about saving and making choices?

  4. Thanks for sharing, Christie. This one looks good and we don't have a lot of titles concerned with money yet.

  5. Well, I don't want to give away the ending, but all through the book, the family tries to save pennies here and there in case they fall on hard times, so they'll still be able to eat and such. Little does Emma know that it's actually a different kind of "hard times." So the jar actually belongs to the family, not the child. The book is also about the LOVE OF READING AND WRITING AND BOOKS. What a great bonus, right?

  6. Did you say 2000 words? It must be good if it got through with such a high word count. A lesson for all children is a win win book. So glad you linked your picture book posts to PPF :)

  7. What a good book suggestion! It is important for kids to learn about spending money and saving and that you have to buy what you need before what you want (at least that is what my parents are always telling me and my sister) :)

  8. Sounds like an all around great choice. I'll have to add this to our list. A word count like this might be too much for my son at his age. We "condense" some of the longer stories, as he studies the illustrations.

  9. Wow! I am in awe. 2000 words for a picture book? That is amazing. I can't wait to find this book. Thanks Christie!

  10. I guess, technically, maybe it's actually called a picture STORYbook? I have found that there are LOTS of picture books over 1,000 words! Just go to Renaissance Learning's website to find out the word count of most books.


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