June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny
"June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny is an accessible, classic tale that has plenty to say about how we find family, and how we find home. Readers of all ages will love this book."
Two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer
June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny is a charming, classic middle grade debut perfect for fans of Three Times Lucky and Because of Winn-Dixie with the most lovable pig since Wilbur in Charlotte's Web.
June Sparrow and her best friend--a miniature pig named Indigo Bunting--have always been just fine on their own. June is a wealthy orphan who's lived in New York City her whole life. But on June's twelfth birthday, she suddenly loses her fortune and is forced to move in with an aunt she's never even met, in the tiny town of Red Bank, South Dakota, a place so small that it doesn't even have a traffic light.
Now June has to live on a farm with grouchy Aunt Bridget, who sees her best friend as potential bacon Then one day, June finds a mysterious Penny Book that her mother used to keep. She is instantly intrigued by what her mother called the Big One, the rarest and most valuable of all pennies. Finding it could be June's ticket back to New York and her old life. But the only guide June and Indigo have is a cryptic list her mom left behind.
To decode the list and find the Big One, June and Indigo enlist the help of some new friends in Red Bank and turn the town upside down in their search. But the most surprising mystery of all may be what brought June to Red Bank in the first place--and what is most valuable to her in the end.
When I visit schools and libraries I usually start by telling the story of how I got the idea for the Penny Book, which began when my husband, Ken Buhler, told me about something he invented as a keepsake for his son, Jake. Ken is a painter and he knew that keeping a regular diary wouldn’t really work for him. So Ken came up with a structure to help him create something lasting for Jake:
When Ken found a penny on the street, he picked it up, and taped it into a small notebook he called his “Penny Book.” He then wrote a brief memory of what he was doing in the year of the penny, and another sentence or two on what he was doing on the day he found it. This way his son would get a glimpse into Ken’s history and his daily life.
I thought this was such a beautifully simple idea, and I went home and told my younger daughter, who was about twelve years old at the time, about Ken’s penny book. She looked at me and said: "Oh, Mama, what a great idea for a book!” I thought it really was, and that was the seed of “June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny.”
We started our own penny books, and it’s so easy to do, and really fun. If you pick up a penny that has a year from before you were born, you can look up some event that was happening in the world that year, or in your own home town, or ask a family member what they might have been doing that year. (Grown-ups love to talk about the good old days, as you probably already know!) But you might find out something you never knew about them, and it’s a fun way to combine real-live history with your own particular day!
We have this cool downloadable form you can get for free right here, and you can print out as many pages as you like and just staple it together. Or if you are the kind of person that likes to scrapbook (or a stationary nerd like me), all you need is a notebook and a roll of tape to get started!
People don’t always notice pennies, or they leave them behind as if they don’t matter much. But everyone knows that pennies are lucky, and you might find a really old penny, maybe even “The Big One” that June and her best friend, Indigo Bunting, her miniature pig, are looking for in the book. That is a real penny by the way, but awfully hard to find. It doesn’t really matter if you find “The Big One,” what matters is having fun and making a memory book of your own wild and wonderful life!
If you make a Penny Book and want to share it with me, please send me an email via this website's contact page
Here are some of Ken’s original Penny Book pages to get you inspired!
And here is Ken with an incredibly cute and fuzzy calf we met in upstate New York.
And here’s a picture of me and Rebecca when she was about June Sparrow’s age