Booklist Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: February 1, 2010
Birtha, Becky (Author), Tadgell, Nicole (Illustrator)
Mar 2010. 32 p. Albert Whitman, hardcover, $16.99. (9780807547823).
Math and wry comedy mix in this lively historical story based on Birtha’s grandmother’s memories of life
during the Depression. Young Marshall describes his African American family’s hardship when Dad loses
his job and then his relatives crowd into Marshall’s room. Worst of all are the beans Ma constantly cooks.
Then a local furniture store makes an exciting offer: whoever guesses the number of beans in a huge jar on
display will win a new sewing machine. If only Marshall could win the prize for Ma so that she could earn
money by sewing. He works out a system to estimate (not guess) by counting the number of beans that fill
a quart jar, and how many quarts fill up a crock . . . and his formula works! The expressive watercolor
paintings show both the racism that Marshall and his family endure as well as his final triumph, and
Tadgell folds in humor, as Marshall faces what looks like a lifetime supply of beans. An informative final
note fills in more about the era’s history.
— Hazel Rochman