Three Pennies

192p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481471879.
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—Eleven-year-old Marin knows how to stay under the radar. Having been in the foster system since she was four, she knows a thing or two about getting by and has just three rules for survival. The third rule is the most important: "Never, under any circumstances, tell anyone that you're waiting for your mother to come back for you." Marin travels light as she bounces from family to family—just a couple of changes of clothes and a few mementos from her mother (a copy of the I Ching, three pennies, and a ceramic piggy bank with a single nickel in it). The language of this short and intense story is spare and evocative, and the chapters are brief and impressionistic. The third-person point of view shifts among Marin; Lucy, the grieving doctor who hopes to adopt Marin; Gilda, the rule-following social worker; and Owl, who roosts across the street from the doctor and has taken an interest in "the hatchling." The fault lines that lie beneath the city of San Francisco get a chapter or two as well. When Marin discovers that Lucy plans to adopt her, thus closing the door to the possibility of her mother ever returning, she steps up her hunt for clues to her identity. Marin is endearing, and readers will worry about her as she plunges headfirst into catastrophe.
VERDICT This tender tale of human frailty tugs at heartstrings and will satisfy tweens who like to read with a tissue handy.

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