Monday, July 9, 2012

Recommended Picture Book: The Hard-Times Jar

Title: The Hard-Times Jar

Author: Ethel Footman Smothers

Illustrator: John Holyfield

PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux; August 12, 2003

Topic: Migrant labor, People & Culture: African-American, Responsibility,  Making good choices, Books and reading, Farm life

Age: 4 - 8

Emma rolled belly-flat. Chocolate-brown feet stuck up over pots and pans. Once upon a time.... she scribbled in thick black letters. She dabbed the pencil on her tongue.
"Emma. Emma Jean!" Mama's voice found her on the porch behind the moving-in boxes.

Emma Turner loves books and dreams of one day having the store-bought kind, but the Turners are migrant workers and money is tight. That means “no extras,” so Emma must be content to make her own stories and books. Emma has a plan, though – she’s going to save all the money she earns picking apples and put it in Mama’s hard-times jar. Then there will surely be enough for extras. But when Mama tells Emma that this year she has to go to school instead of to work, it spoils everything. Now she will never own a store-bought book! But school turns out to have a wonderful surprise in store for Emma.


Responsibility: Key to character. Lesson and activities
Is it a want or need: a lesson about responsibility
Teaching economics: lesson ideas can be found here.

Why I like this book:
This was a really thoughtful book. The author uses her own life stories and brings them to life through the adorable character Emma who is the daughter of migrant workers who harvest to make a living, a living that is barely enough and leaves very little money, if any, for "extras". From the beginning we learn how much Emma loves books and how she creates her own stories because she does not have access to books. So what does she do? She helps her family in the fields to contribute to the hard-times jar so that she can perhaps one day buy herself a 'real' book. I loved Emma's hardworking determination. She did not ask for money but she worked hard contributing to the family funds in the 'hopes' of one day being able to buy a book. The book also deals with making good choices. When Emma disobeys a school rule and "borrows" a book and take it home, she learns a valuable life lesson in making good choices AND owning up to her mistakes. 

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