By Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Candlewick Press, 2016. 40 pages. $15.99/hardcover. Recommended for ages 5–8.
This is that rare story—a moral tale that’s subtle and suspenseful. Ruben wants a bike. He knows just how a bike would improve his already pleasant, though not opulent, life. On an errand to buy some groceries for his mother, he sees a one-dollar bill fall from the purse of a shopper whose face and blue coat are familiar from previous trips. He picks the money up and takes it home, where he discovers it’s really a one hundred-dollar bill. It’s a winding road to the point at which he does the right thing, and his reactions along the way are authentic and interesting. “I am happy and mixed up, full and empty, with what’s right and what’s gone,” he says after he has returned the money. I was so wrapped up in the story that at first I didn’t notice how Noah Z. Jones has varied the skin colors of his characters, even in Ruben’s own family. All are believable, though none is identifiable as belonging to any specific ethnic group. Ruben’s own observations, thoughts, and feelings are the factors that lead to his decision. Children of “first two-wheeler” age are probably the best audience for this book, which would be a happy and thought-provoking addition to Quaker homes and religious education programs.