Three Pennies

Three Pennies

For Ages: 8 - 12
  • 3
A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this spare and beautifully told novel about last chances and new opportunities.

For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—when Marin lands in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her.

Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy Earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken.
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 192 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481471879 | 
  • May 2017 | 
  • Grades 3 - 7 | 
  • Lexile ® 850L
List Price $16.99 (price may vary by retailer)
In Stock: Usually ships within 1 business day

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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Three Pennies

By Melanie Crowder

About the Book

When eleven-year-old Marin Greene finds out that she is going to be adopted, she is anything but happy. That’s because Marin is convinced that her birth mother never meant to leave her behind. As she moves from foster home to foster home, Marin carries a pocket-sized I Ching and three pennies with her, hoping that this link to her mother will also give her the clues she needs to find her again. It is not until it looks like her hopes will be realized that she begins to question whether the mother she has been looking for and the mother she has been wishing for may not actually be the same.

Discussion Questions

1. The first five chapters of the book introduce the main characters: Marin, Owl, Gilda, and Lucy. Describe your first impressions of each of them. Can you identify a conflict that each character has?

2. What rules for survival in the foster care system does Marin make for herself? What does she hope will happen if she follows these rules? If you had to make up three rules for your own life, what would they be?

3. Throughout the novel, the author uses figurative language (like similes and personification) to describe characters, their thoughts and feelings, and the setting. Find a passage in the book that uses figurative language to help you picture the setting clearly or understand see more

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About the Author

Melanie Crowder
Photograph courtesy of the author

Melanie Crowder

Melanie Crowder lives on the Colorado Front Range, where she is a writer and educator. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the young adult novels Audacity and An Uninterrupted View of the Sky and the middle grade novels Parched, A Nearer Moon, and The Lighthouse Between the Worlds. Visit her at