Especially for StudentsNIE and You
The Penny Tree

The students from Mrs. Meredith´s class at Tomoka Elementary really enjoyed reading the five-chapter serial story, "The Penny Tree," by award-winning author Jack Gantos. Some students were even inspired to create an additional follow-up chapter.

The Penny Tree
By K. B., Tomoka Elementary
Mrs. Meredith, Teacher

Jack Sata was broke for the third year in a row. He had just spent his last $4.00 on a John Rocker card. Of course his sister Betsy had loads of money from babysitting the Whilsta twins and the Banter kids all summer. As fall approached, everybody at school talked about what they were going to be for Halloween. Conner Gole, his best friend had planned to be a caterpillar. Jack planned to be a yellow M&M, just as soon as he could save $14.50; it was on sale at the Springfield Mall.

One chilly fall night in Mid-October, Pete, Betsy, and Jack sat down at the dinner table. His mom had been working late, and his dad had an Eagle Club meeting to go to. Betsy had made hot tomato soup and some bread. All of a sudden Pete, Jack´s younger brother, gasped. It was so loud you could probably hear it a mile away! "The Penny Tree! I forgot all about it!" "Oh brother" Jack said with a sigh.

About four in the morning Jack heard a beeping noise. Beep-Neep-Beep-Eeep. "Pete!" he screamed at the top of his lungs! "What are you doing up at this hour?" he asked. "Just watering the Penny Tree." Pete replied. Jack stayed up for the next 45 minutes until he was sure Pete was sleeping. Then he dug into his desk and grabbed about a dozen pennies. He carefully taped them on to the 3 foot plant. That should do it, he thought. The next morning, being extremely tired, he ate his hot grits and went to school.

When Jack arrived at Springfield Elementary, a mob of kindergartners greeted him at the door. "Where are the penny tree seeds? How can I get some? Where did you get the seeds?" They all said. "You can only get them one place-China. They cost a million dollars!" That night Jack decided to tell Pete The Penny Tree was all fake. Just before bed, Jack was about to tell Pete, but something held him back. Instead, he told Pete that the penny tree could only produce 3 pennies a day. Also, it would only produce in the month of October. If he watered it, it would die the next minute. Pete believed him too. That night, Jack put three pennies on the tree. He continued this for a month, and it only cost him $1.80, so he was happy. One day Jack was just wandering and decided to see how much Pete had coughed out of him. One dollar, two dollars, and so on. In total, Pete now had $19.88. That was just enough for the costume with tax, and two chocolate sundaes.

Jack took Pete to the mall one Saturday and in gratitude, Pete bought him the costume. He also bought two chocolate sundaes drenched with hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry on the top. After that, every October until Pete was 17, he placed 3 pennies on the tree. When Pete grew up and got a job, he made the pennies for the United States. And as for Jack, he made the nickels.

The Penny Tree
By D. W., Tomoka Elementary
Mrs. Meredith, Teacher


"Yes!" shouted Pete, joyfully. It was summertime again, time for the Penny Tree. The Penny Tree was the plant Pete was given for his fifth birthday from his brother Jack. The Penny Tree was very stout for it´s young age. Since last summer, Jack had saved forty dollars to put on the Penny Tree because he was the one who started it. It was 8:20 am and everybody was still asleep except for Pete who was out watering the tree. When Jack woke up, he was astonished to see his little brother watering the tree already. "What a summer it´s going to be", Jack said in a grumpy voice. As he came down to breakfast, Mom, Dad, and Betsey, his big sister, sat reading in the living room with smiles on their faces. They were happy to know that Jack was going to lose all the money he had earned over the previous summer. Jack sat down furiously at the kitchen table.

Meanwhile, Pete was glad to have the Penny Tree back. At dusk, when his family was sound asleep, Jack ran out the back door to his neighbor´s garden in the black Batman PJ´s his mother made him wear. Jack immediately took the five two-dollar bills that he had earned and put them on the midget tree. When Pete woke up after a good night´s sleep, he was happy to see the money on the tree. Jack, meanwhile, was miserable. He only had $30 left and would soon be losing more...


Jack was ready to treat himself to the $10 Honus Wagner card, but something told him he was going to need the $10 for the Penny Tree. Deep down, Jack felt that it was a bummer not to be able to buy the Honus Wagner card. At 5:00 PM, Jack scrambled across town on his bike to put in an evening of hard work for the best basketball player in the world, D´Money Williamson. Jack had butterflies in his stomach when he arrived and looked at the big mansion. Then Jack began to work in the football field behind D´Money´s mansion. After three long hours, D´Money thanked him and gave him a hundred dollar bill. Jack felt glorious! He was holding a hundred dollar bill in his hand! Jack rode happily home, ready to tell everybody the good news.

As Jack opened the door, he heard crying. When he reached the 18th step, he saw Pete crying in the hall. While running, Pete had accidentally trodden on the Penny Tree. He thought that now the Penny Tree wouldn´t grow. The main reason Pete was crying was that he had invited the most popular kids in his class to see his Penny Tree tomorrow. He was going to be dead meat.


Jack had an idea that would save Pete from being laughed at. All Pete had to do was plant another tree. Jack told Pete that the tree would grow as fast as the last one. So, at 8:00 PM, Pete went out to plant another Penny Tree. Later that night, Jack went out and planted another tree, the smallest tree he could find. When Pete woke up and saw the tree, he was so happy that he embraced his brother and gave him a kiss. At 3:27 that afternoon, the five most popular kids showed up at the door. Jack led the 5 and 6-year-olds to the back of the house where Pete was quietly waiting. Pete then showed the kids the Penny Tree. After Pete was finished telling them about the tree, they all asked if they could have some money from the tree. In an uproar, Pete shouted "No!" The kids all left with an angry "Hmmm!"

As Pete was taking the money off the tree, it broke. This made Pete sad. Jack told him that summer was almost over and after two summers, the Penny Tree would stop growing. Pete was a little disappointed, but at least he had forty dollars left. Jack was happy the episode was over. Next year for Pete´s birthday, he would spend more money.

"The Penny Tree" - Alternate Ending
By K. G., Tomoka Elementary
Mrs. Meredith, Teacher

That night at dinner Pete said, "I´m going to have to count down until summer!" Mom gave me a scornful look, and Betsy smirked.

Winter passed quickly without a word from Pete about the Penny Tree. Soon it was summer and I had saved up $100.00 for a Honus Wagner card! Just as I was going out to buy the card I saw Pete watering his tree. I had totally forgotten about the tree!

I quickly went inside to think about what I should do. Then I knew that my imagination had gone to far! That night I taped 15 one dollar bills on the tree. When Pete spotted the bills on the tree the next morning he almost exploded with excitement!

That night I taped five dollar bills to the tree, Pete almost jumped out of his shoes! The following night I pruned most of the branches and painted black spots all over the tree.

Pete raced outside the next morning as fast as the beat of a humming bird´s wigs. As I approached Pete he almost fainted.

Then he said, "Now it´s really dead isn´t it?"

I quickly said, "No, but it won´t grow money anymore."

Then Pete said, "You mean it only grows for two years?"

I replied, "Yes, but it may give a few pennies every now and then."

Luckily I avoided having to tell Pete that the Penny Tree wasn´t real. Just in case you´re wondering, I spent the rest of my money buying Pete some more hockey gear!