Oh, The Places You’ve Been (Ben Everard, with Mary Everard)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Oh, The Places You’ve Been, written by Ben Everard with Mary Everard, and illustrated by Andrea Alemanno, a reflection on the surprising life of the coins in our pockets.

A little girl named Harper is dashing down the street one day when a glimmer catches her eye. On the pavement is a shiny penny; Harper is drawn to pick it up, whereupon she hears a faint whisper. Holding the penny to her ear, she can hear it speak! It explains that while it may not be much to look at, it has a long history and has travelled far and wide, from the bottom of a reef to a quiet forest to a bustling city to a snowy mountain, and even… beyond the stars?

Ambitious and interesting. The provenance of everyday items can be an interesting subject for kidlit (for instance, A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker is a masterpiece), especially because it gives little ones an opportunity to meditate on a larger world and a lengthier history than their own. Starting from this concept, the book then follows the penny through its history, and this is where the narrative plateaus. The reader is shown various natural landscapes and one urban one, but with little indication of how the penny ended up there (the penny’s narration explains some, but not all, of the transitions, and the illustrations depict only the locales, devoid of humans). The art is lovely, but it feels largely like a missed opportunity to show how the penny might have traveled from place to place, which would’ve made for a more dynamic story. In addition, a final scene showing the penny present in Neil Armstrong’s pocket during the moon landing comes out of left field, and is both historically inaccurate and a logistical impossibility. The idea of musing on the journeys and “lives” of objects is a great one, and this tale of a wandering penny has great promise, some soothing art, and clever design (all the periods are pennies!), but stumbles on the execution. Otherwise, the length was fine, if a little long; JJ was invested at first but begin to squirm at some of the wordier pages. An earnest, if imperfect, indie that’s worth a look, especially for currency enthusiasts. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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