Author: Molly Schaar Idle
Illustrator: Molly Schaar Idle
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Audience: Ages 9-12
Summary: Agnes’s parents have lost their business and their money. Now they must be cautious about spending, so Agnes can’t buy and do the things she wants to do. Agnes is even tempted to ask to use the emergency quarter towards buying a beautiful doll she wants! But then Agnes realizes that if she has her loving parents, she has all that she could ever want or need. When her father gets a job at the ice cream sundae shop, Agnes and her parents celebrate with a three-way snuggle and visit to the soda fountain.
Literary elements at work in Story: The rhythm of the story alternates between pages with short lines and pages with longer narrative. This rhythm corresponds to alternating moods–one mood associated with Agnes’s mournful view of her situation and one mood associated with her parents’ attempt to offer alternative ways of viewing a frugal yet love-filled lifestyle. The motif of the quarter, although referred periodically in the story, feels forced, particularly because the quarter is not enough to buy the doll anyway nor is it used on ice cream at the end. The narrative does not seem to naturally correlate with its subtitle: “Story of One Quarter.”
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story?: The story traces the economic change in the life of a middle class white family. The disappointment Agnes feels at not having her own room anymore, not being able to ride the Ferris wheel at the boardwalk or buy a beautiful doll in the shop window would seem, perhaps, like trivial disappointments to readers at poverty level.
Theological conversation partners: The book suggests that we are supposed to love one another more than we love things. Agnes changes perspective and the book ends with a citation from John 15:12. Perhaps the more interesting aspect of the book’s theology is the attempt by the parents to show Agnes how one can live in the world and not of the world simply by having a positive and creative viewpoint. For instance, instead of thinking that getting caught in the rain is an emergency, Agnes’s mother shows her how fun it can be!
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why is Agnes moping in the corner?
- Why can’t she ride the Ferris wheel ?
- Were you surprised that Agnes doesn’t like the handmade doll?
- What makes Agnes feel ashamed?
- Why do Agnes and her parents have a three-way snuggle?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary Alum Anne Rankowitz