The Penny Predicament: A Coin Chronicles Novel
There is a lot to love about this book. I don’t get to read Christian middle-grade fiction very often, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there would be more Bible quoting and scriptural references but Vazquez changed things up a bit and didn’t outright call the Bible a ‘Bible’. I think this book is secular enough to not be considered a Christian book but anyone familiar with the Christian faith will most definitely recognize the references.
The best part of this book is the main character. Jake King is such an awesome name for a protagonist but I think I loved it so much because Jake doesn’t actually behave like a king. He is quirky, awkward, and almost always nervous. But those are the things that made him so loveable.
Jake is a brave young man who finds out that his father has lost his job. Upon hearing this news, he decides it’s his job to help the family out in their financial struggles. After finding a mysterious coin, Jake gets caught up in a series of unfortunate yet entertaining events that lays the foundation for an adventurous story.
Vazquez is a Christian psychologist and both her faith and her background are evident in the story. She picks her words carefully and puts an emphasis on family matters and the way in which they impact the lives of children. My biggest compliment would definitely be on the diversity in Vazquez’s cast. Jake is a mixed-race boy whose mother is described as having ‘pale’ skin while his father has brown skin, which left him with a tan complexion.
I’m always on the lookout for diverse books and I think it’s great when an author queries me with an African-American cast or Hispanic cast but diverse doesn’t just mean having a black lead character. Mixed races are important too and I think Vazquez understands that very well. I will point out that the actual race of the characters is somewhat left up to imagination as only the skin is described, not the exact ethnicity. But that’s what made me enjoy it even more. Jake’s parents could have been black and white or Hispanic and black, or just a lighter toned Hispanic and darker toned Hispanic. The race is never outright named which leaves the door open for readers to imagine the characters as their own ethnicity or another one. For a book written for younger audiences, I believe this is probably the best way to approach race.
Now, my only complaint about this book would be the illustrations. I really hate criticizing the pictures because I am not an illustrator so I don’t think I have the necessary experience to properly critique someone’s work. However, in this book, the illustrations were so large and unrelated to the writing, I actually found them distracting. I think I felt this way because most of the illustrations weren’t pictures, they were the last few words of a random sentence increased in font by ten times and placed smack in the middle of the page. Then the pictures that were actually illustrations looked more like scribbles in the back of someone’s notebook than pictures that belonged in such a wonderful novel. Don’t get me wrong, the pictures were quirky just like the cast and story but I just wanted and expected more.
I would recommend this story to readers of all ages. Christian audiences will definitely appreciate this book more than others but anyone looking for a solid read full of diverse characters and excellent adventures then this is the book for you.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*