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Small Change: The Secret Life of Penny Burford

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"It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts." This is the story of how that philosophy worked out in the life of Penny Buford, an ordinary housewife who leaves an extraordinary legacy. Yandell's Small Change is about a devoted housewife, Penny Burford, who scoops up her husband Roy's loose change and eventually puts together a substantial bank account. She u "It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts." This is the story of how that philosophy worked out in the life of Penny Buford, an ordinary housewife who leaves an extraordinary legacy. Yandell's Small Change is about a devoted housewife, Penny Burford, who scoops up her husband Roy's loose change and eventually puts together a substantial bank account. She uses the money for secret charities, of which the phlegmatic Roy learns only upon Penny's death. Why Penny did what she did the way she did it then becomes the story, and the reader must return to Roy and Penny's childhoods to understand it fully. Yandell is sentimental but not syrupy: Roy and Penny's marriage is realistically drawn, and the points she makes about the nature of charity are well taken. John Mort Copyright American Library Association


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"It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts." This is the story of how that philosophy worked out in the life of Penny Buford, an ordinary housewife who leaves an extraordinary legacy. Yandell's Small Change is about a devoted housewife, Penny Burford, who scoops up her husband Roy's loose change and eventually puts together a substantial bank account. She u "It's not what you have but what you do with it that counts." This is the story of how that philosophy worked out in the life of Penny Buford, an ordinary housewife who leaves an extraordinary legacy. Yandell's Small Change is about a devoted housewife, Penny Burford, who scoops up her husband Roy's loose change and eventually puts together a substantial bank account. She uses the money for secret charities, of which the phlegmatic Roy learns only upon Penny's death. Why Penny did what she did the way she did it then becomes the story, and the reader must return to Roy and Penny's childhoods to understand it fully. Yandell is sentimental but not syrupy: Roy and Penny's marriage is realistically drawn, and the points she makes about the nature of charity are well taken. John Mort Copyright American Library Association

30 review for Small Change: The Secret Life of Penny Burford

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This is an afternoon read and a very sweet book. You put it down feeling like you can make a difference and that the small acts of kindness that make up our lives really do have an impact on others. And it contains one of my favorite themes...that although we cannot always control the circumstances we find ourselves in, we can always control our reaction to them.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cydnie

    This was a quick read- read it in an evening. I thought that it had a good message, that we can choose how we act and react to events in our lives. Penny Burford could have chosen to be miserable in her marriage to a overbearing husband. Instead she chooses to first, understand why her husband was the way he was and second, to make a satisfying life for herself. I thought it sad that he only comes to truly know her, and understand the wonderful things that she has accomplished, after she dies. This was a quick read- read it in an evening. I thought that it had a good message, that we can choose how we act and react to events in our lives. Penny Burford could have chosen to be miserable in her marriage to a overbearing husband. Instead she chooses to first, understand why her husband was the way he was and second, to make a satisfying life for herself. I thought it sad that he only comes to truly know her, and understand the wonderful things that she has accomplished, after she dies. I loved the wonderfully descriptive writing style of Ms. Yandell. Phrases like, "She looked like a washrag that had been used hard, then wrung out by vicious, twisting fists and left to dry in an unsmoothed lump" and "She sipped her Sprite, liking the way it seemed to sparkle on her tongue with the sugary bliss of penny candy" [a reference to an earlier story about her childhood:] Last, I loved Penny's motto, "It's what you do with it that counts". At first it seems to only refer to what she ends up doing with her "small change"; but I think it also refers to what she did with everything in her life: her religious beliefs, her marriage, her understanding of her husband, and the friendships that she developed. A good motto for all of us to adopt.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    "It's what you do with it that counts." The story of Penny Burford is a testament to the fact that "through small and simple things are great things brought to pass". Penny collects the change her husband, Roy, leaves around the house. The amount of good that she is able to do with those handfuls of coins is inspiring. Interesting view of Charity. Though it was a sweet story, quick and easy to read, I found it to be terribly sad. Roy is a hard and proud man, who didn't know his wife. After 40 year "It's what you do with it that counts." The story of Penny Burford is a testament to the fact that "through small and simple things are great things brought to pass". Penny collects the change her husband, Roy, leaves around the house. The amount of good that she is able to do with those handfuls of coins is inspiring. Interesting view of Charity. Though it was a sweet story, quick and easy to read, I found it to be terribly sad. Roy is a hard and proud man, who didn't know his wife. After 40 years of marriage. I felt so sad for what "might've been" for Roy, if only he had learned to really love and appreciate Penny. There's a lesson to be learned from Roy as well. I would recommend to anyone wanting a quick, feel-good kind of story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This is my favorite contemporary Christmas story. It is not perfect, Penny's relationships with her husband and her children are seriously flawed. But I love the way she made the world brighter for those around her in her own quiet, almost unseen, way, and I love the husband's redemption story. Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: Your favorite prompt from a past Popsugar Reading Challenge: 2017: a book you've read before that never fails to make you smile This is my favorite contemporary Christmas story. It is not perfect, Penny's relationships with her husband and her children are seriously flawed. But I love the way she made the world brighter for those around her in her own quiet, almost unseen, way, and I love the husband's redemption story. Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: Your favorite prompt from a past Popsugar Reading Challenge: 2017: a book you've read before that never fails to make you smile

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    This book was very different than what I was expecting, but what a delightfully cute book! It is so simple and sweet, and Penny is such a wonderfully strong character even while she is unassuming and content to just play her quiet part. I am just sad about how much of her life she was unable to share with those she loved most. I am really glad I decided to pick this one up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    This is such a sweet uplifting story, which made me surprisingly nostalgic. I felt like I knew every character. If you're Southern and grew up in the 60s, this story will especially resonate with you. The author managed to navigate that narrow corridor between sentimentality and moral invective, with a deft lightness. Feel-good stories are way outside of my wheelhouse, but this took me by surprise. A truly enjoyable quick read. This is such a sweet uplifting story, which made me surprisingly nostalgic. I felt like I knew every character. If you're Southern and grew up in the 60s, this story will especially resonate with you. The author managed to navigate that narrow corridor between sentimentality and moral invective, with a deft lightness. Feel-good stories are way outside of my wheelhouse, but this took me by surprise. A truly enjoyable quick read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shauna

    This book was short and sweet. I loved it! The main character was a quiet, “boring” woman who actually lived a fuller life than her children or husband ever imagined. Good for her!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Generally, I do not seek out inspirational stories. The writing, characterization, and plot all fall short in favor of a higher message ~ which I couldn't care less about. I read for escape, entertainment... getting a good message is secondary to a getting a good story. And, really, a talented author should be able to do both anyway, right? Regardless, I am not a feel-good sort of girl looking for inspiration in life, and I normally find these sorts of things not only badly executed, but so fil Generally, I do not seek out inspirational stories. The writing, characterization, and plot all fall short in favor of a higher message ~ which I couldn't care less about. I read for escape, entertainment... getting a good message is secondary to a getting a good story. And, really, a talented author should be able to do both anyway, right? Regardless, I am not a feel-good sort of girl looking for inspiration in life, and I normally find these sorts of things not only badly executed, but so filled with sappy love, tearful emotions and good messages that I want to go out and do something really really bad to even out my scales again ;) That being said, I can't for the life of me remember what provoked me to add this to my TBR list? Small Change is an incredibly quick read which, as promised, tells of the secret life of Penny Burford. I'm not going to go into the message that can be taken from this book ~ really, a few messages can be inferred. And I'm not sure that someone as cynical as myself can give this book the review it probably should have. What I can say is that my one star is more a reflection of my personal taste in reading material ~ this soooo isn't it. Small Change is a lesson told in story form. As such, the writing isn't fantastic, but it never is in books such as this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kiera Beddes

    Genre: life lessons, the secret life of married couples, little things matter Summary: Penny Burford is a preacher's daughter who married a proud man from a very poor background. One day, she decides to do something with the coins she finds around the house. Response: This is the choice for book club this month. I was willing to read it for that sake alone, but I got caught up in the story. It's a sweet story and the characters become very real. At first, I was worried that it was going to be abou Genre: life lessons, the secret life of married couples, little things matter Summary: Penny Burford is a preacher's daughter who married a proud man from a very poor background. One day, she decides to do something with the coins she finds around the house. Response: This is the choice for book club this month. I was willing to read it for that sake alone, but I got caught up in the story. It's a sweet story and the characters become very real. At first, I was worried that it was going to be about domestic abuse, because in a way, the Burfords' relationship wasn't a very healthy one, very restrictive. But what I loved about it was all of the good that Penny was able to do, despite her husband's pride. "It's what you do with it that counts." All in all, it's an adorable little book, worth a read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mahdis

    I read this book in one evening. A simple thought provoking book that will change the way you look at spare change and the way you choose to use not only your money, but time. It allowed me to yet again think about how I could improve my attitude in all situations. "Happiness is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal with it" I admire Penny for here resilience, charity, patience, and long suffering. If I may one day be surrounded by the amount of people she influenced in small simp I read this book in one evening. A simple thought provoking book that will change the way you look at spare change and the way you choose to use not only your money, but time. It allowed me to yet again think about how I could improve my attitude in all situations. "Happiness is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal with it" I admire Penny for here resilience, charity, patience, and long suffering. If I may one day be surrounded by the amount of people she influenced in small simple ways, then I feel I would have lived a life worth living. "It's what you do with it that counts" is going on my quote wall.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This book is a story that shows you can make a difference in your life (and after) even if at first glance it seems unlikely or difficult to do. I was sad for her lack of real communication in her marriage, but also recognize that it may be a way of life for many and that she found a way to communicate with her husband when he may be more likely to be effected. So even though my book club friend found it less than "a good read", I enjoyed it. ha ha just kiddin' This book is a story that shows you can make a difference in your life (and after) even if at first glance it seems unlikely or difficult to do. I was sad for her lack of real communication in her marriage, but also recognize that it may be a way of life for many and that she found a way to communicate with her husband when he may be more likely to be effected. So even though my book club friend found it less than "a good read", I enjoyed it. ha ha just kiddin'

  12. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    This is one of my favorite books. It is very light, but there are things in it that have changed the way I do thing in my life. It is the story about a woman who starts to collect a nickel here, a dime there from the piles of change her husband leaves around the house. Little by little she saves the money and makes big changes from her small change - but the changes are not just monitary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marlene

    This is a story about a woman from my mother's generation who were only allowed to like what their husband's liked and had only the money that their husband's allowed them to have. What she did with an irritation in her life was inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time. This is a story about a woman from my mother's generation who were only allowed to like what their husband's liked and had only the money that their husband's allowed them to have. What she did with an irritation in her life was inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Sometimes you have to wonder how women stay married to some men... But I enjoyed the story how one of those women chose to stay married, but also chose to be true to herself. I loved the simple lesson that little things count... and that great things can come from little things every day...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nola Arganbright

    A Penny Saved This is such a beautiful story. It reminds me so much of my childhood and my parents. It brings tears to my eyes. This is a wonderful book to share with friends and family. It is what you do with the small things that matters.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda Hart

    Fast read, feel-good book with the message little things can make a wonderful difference and difference life is about as good as what you do with.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Penny was the daughter of the Baptist minister. She especially loved helping at Christmas: organizing the food boxes, repairing and wrapping clothes and gifts for the children in need. Then, she goes with her father to the home of drunken Mr Burford. His son Roy is in her school. There, in the face of Roy's anger and resentment, the rosy glow of charity - of helping those with less- loses something of its ability to warm the heart. Fast forward in time, and she has married (for reasons unexplaine Penny was the daughter of the Baptist minister. She especially loved helping at Christmas: organizing the food boxes, repairing and wrapping clothes and gifts for the children in need. Then, she goes with her father to the home of drunken Mr Burford. His son Roy is in her school. There, in the face of Roy's anger and resentment, the rosy glow of charity - of helping those with less- loses something of its ability to warm the heart. Fast forward in time, and she has married (for reasons unexplained) Roy Burford. He's determined to not be the man his father was: he won't be drunk, he won't be unemployed, he won't be unfaithful. But neither does he have it in him to be positively kind. He can't shake off the resentment of his history of poverty, and he's very controlling of the money he brings in, even to criticizing how much she spends on bacon. His funny relationship with money doesn't end there. He dumps his change all around the house: counters, floors, dressers. He can't be bothered to gather it, nor will he permit Penny to put it in paper rolls and take it to the bank. She begins collecting it into the ashtray. Then, one day, it begins with a single nickel. She begins collecting the change. I found this book by chance at the library. The most recent Reader's Choice challenge had concluded and they had made a display of previous winners. I was surprised by how many I had read and enjoyed, and took a chance on this one that I'd missed. Lovely, quick read. Touching, interesting, bitter-sweet. One of the best lines: "O Lord, how many marriages just like the Burford's had he seen over the years? Marriages of competent, intelligent women who spent their lives tiptoeing around a husband's prickly pride?" This might be one I buy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Collette

    This is just a little book I read for book club. It’s about a woman named Penny who has a secret life. It has a nice ending message. As I read, it was hard tying to not just feel my feelings of annoyance and anger at her husband Roy and just feel the message of the book. A cold, controlling man born out of a sad, hurt little boy stilted his wife’s life so much. She found a way to make and do good. To take control over her life. And in the end, that is the message to hold on to - help others, liv This is just a little book I read for book club. It’s about a woman named Penny who has a secret life. It has a nice ending message. As I read, it was hard tying to not just feel my feelings of annoyance and anger at her husband Roy and just feel the message of the book. A cold, controlling man born out of a sad, hurt little boy stilted his wife’s life so much. She found a way to make and do good. To take control over her life. And in the end, that is the message to hold on to - help others, live life, be kind...”It’s what you do with it that counts.” I think this book struck a personal chord for me. I’ve never felt like I have enough money, but have never wanted to be rich. I always feel like I want to be more giving and generous, but lack the funds for financial help and the courage to give time/a listening ear/connection. It’s dumb really. I have enough money to buy crap I don’t need but just want, so I could always share that. And I certainly can step out of my comfort zone like Penny did and actually live the life I want. She led a fine life full of good examples. I still am annoyed at Roy though. 3 stars for the book, 5 for Penny’s message

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This was a cute little quick read and I loved it. It was published in 2002 and I had never heard of it before I went into the library last night and spotted some past "reader's choice" winners from years past. On the front of the book it says it is the winner of the Salt Lake County Library System's 2003 Reader's Choice Award. The story is about a wife who isn't treated the best by her husband of many years. He leaves spare change around when he empties out his pockets after coming home from wor This was a cute little quick read and I loved it. It was published in 2002 and I had never heard of it before I went into the library last night and spotted some past "reader's choice" winners from years past. On the front of the book it says it is the winner of the Salt Lake County Library System's 2003 Reader's Choice Award. The story is about a wife who isn't treated the best by her husband of many years. He leaves spare change around when he empties out his pockets after coming home from work for the day and everyday she starts to collect that change. Since he doesn't notice that it is gone a little here and there she amasses quite a collection and turns into a substantial amount of money. The husband finds out years later what she was doing with the money. Sweet, heartfelt and feel good all around.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    This was a fantastic book! I truly can't say enough about it. It was a very fast read about a stay-at-home mom and wife, daughter of a pastor. She married a poor boy she had grown up with. Quiet and humble as she was, she knew she was here to make a difference. In her own creative way, she touched more lives than her husband, family, or town ever knew about. Isn't that what being a Christian is all about--not advertising your good deeds by shouting them from the rooftops but quietly shining God' This was a fantastic book! I truly can't say enough about it. It was a very fast read about a stay-at-home mom and wife, daughter of a pastor. She married a poor boy she had grown up with. Quiet and humble as she was, she knew she was here to make a difference. In her own creative way, she touched more lives than her husband, family, or town ever knew about. Isn't that what being a Christian is all about--not advertising your good deeds by shouting them from the rooftops but quietly shining God's love to everyone around you? Yes, I cried (I'm a crier), but they were tears of joy and praise. Everyone needs to read this book! I'm going to buy it and add it to my library, which is reserved for only my most favorites!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Kummer

    This sure was a different book for me to read. What a beautiful lesson we can all learn from it. Some people may not have very much, but what they do have can be used it special ways. I remember my parents teaching me at a young age to start putting your pennies and nickels away and watch it begin to grow. No one has to be rich to start saving. Just using a little wisdom can help you later on in life when those so called "rainy" days pop up. And believe me, they do. This book will stay on my book This sure was a different book for me to read. What a beautiful lesson we can all learn from it. Some people may not have very much, but what they do have can be used it special ways. I remember my parents teaching me at a young age to start putting your pennies and nickels away and watch it begin to grow. No one has to be rich to start saving. Just using a little wisdom can help you later on in life when those so called "rainy" days pop up. And believe me, they do. This book will stay on my bookshelf forever, and remember that "its what you do with that counts."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sterling Walker

    A sweet short read that I could relate to in my own life. Penny Burford saves the coins her controlling husband leaves around the house to have a fulfilling life of her own outside the realm of his influence. An excellent testament to the idea that spouses should each have a fund of their own, 'mad money' if you will, to spend as they choose without having to ask the other's permission. A sweet short read that I could relate to in my own life. Penny Burford saves the coins her controlling husband leaves around the house to have a fulfilling life of her own outside the realm of his influence. An excellent testament to the idea that spouses should each have a fund of their own, 'mad money' if you will, to spend as they choose without having to ask the other's permission.

  23. 5 out of 5

    CarolAnn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This a very small book that was inspiring, fun, and uplifting. I need to get my life in order just in case I should drop dead and my surviving family find out how cluttered, disorganized, and not very wonderful I lived. This book helped me want to change even at my older age. Penny's mantra - "It's what you do with it that counts" Small change or life. This a very small book that was inspiring, fun, and uplifting. I need to get my life in order just in case I should drop dead and my surviving family find out how cluttered, disorganized, and not very wonderful I lived. This book helped me want to change even at my older age. Penny's mantra - "It's what you do with it that counts" Small change or life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jackson

    This actually was a quick fun book. I liked how she had a "role" as a wife and mother but she was able to do so much more without praise. And she learned new things instead of staying in her housewife box. This actually was a quick fun book. I liked how she had a "role" as a wife and mother but she was able to do so much more without praise. And she learned new things instead of staying in her housewife box.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Wilcox

    My mom gave me this book at Thanksgiving, it was a fun book to read before Christmas-easy and quick to get through. A great reminder about the importance of serving others and saving your pennies!! :)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Weaver

    Penny for your thoughts. This was a short read but very moving. Couldn’t help tearing up. So many go their whole lives never learning the message this story shares. Sometime little secrets can make life worth living. Hope is there for us all

  27. 4 out of 5

    Becca Curtis

    I love this book. I love the happy end, and that it makes me cry, and that she actually takes what bothers her and uses it. I love that she uses something that makes her feel hugely guilty to help others in a way that doesn't diminish them. I love this book. I love the happy end, and that it makes me cry, and that she actually takes what bothers her and uses it. I love that she uses something that makes her feel hugely guilty to help others in a way that doesn't diminish them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This is such a great book!! I loved this book. Penny, the main character is a person who knows what’s important in life and she lives it. Everyone should read this sweet but deep book. If we all lived our lives like Penny lived here, the world would be a much happier place!!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ricks

    Amanda recommended this book to me and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED it. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for ministering sisters. I had a thoroughly lovely couple of hours reading it. I am recommending it to everyone.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    A simple, short story about an ordinary housewife who leaves an extraordinary legacy. It depicts the true spirit of caring for others and the long-lasting effects of poverty on an individual. A must read!

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