Rereading: THE TROUBLE WITH JENNY’S EAR by Oliver Butterworth

Jenny is six years old and lives with her two older brothers, Joe and Stan, and her parents in a rural New England town. Their Uncle Harold owns an electrical repair shop, and Joe and Stan are thrilled with all the leftover equipment he brings them to play with. Soon they have the entire house wired with microphones and speakers, and then they add closed-circuit TV to the mix. The family don’t always appreciate the boys’ ideas of fun with electronics, like loud noise early in the morning, but they do come up with a few useful ideas.

Jenny is frightened by some of their loud experiments, and then discovers one of her ears has been prompted into a different kind of hearing: she can hear people’s thoughts. At first skeptical, her family soon realizes it’s true when she tells them what they’re thinking. The family has a nice house and yard that runs down to a brook, and beyond it is the best sledding hill in the area. The owner of all that property has decided to sell to developers. But if Jenny’s new ability can be used to raise enough money, they can buy all that land and preserve it. So begins a campaign where Jenny answers questions with perfect accuracy because she can read the answers from the thoughts of the person asking. First a local spelling bee, then a local quiz show, and soon she’s invited to be on the biggest quiz show in New York City, with a grand prize big enough to buy the land she wants to save. But will the stress of the show be too much for the young girl?

This is Butterworth’s second book, following his very popular “The Enormous Egg.” I enjoyed rereading it, and the idea is clever, but not quite as interesting as his first book, and the illustrations are very simple and add nothing to the story. Recommended.

The Trouble With Jennys Ear by Oliver Butterworth

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