Cover image for Mary Smith
Mary Smith
U'Ren, Andrea.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2003.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 21 x 26 cm
Early in the morning Mary Smith walks through the town, waking people up by shooting at their windows with her peashooter.
Reading Level:
470 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 2.5 0.5 70398.

Reading Counts RC K-2 2.3 1 Quiz: 34930 Guided reading level: J.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J.PK.BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Time to get up! Did you ever wonder how people woke up in time for schoolor work in the days before alarm clocks? In the early twentieth century, townspeople in England hired "knocker-ups" like Mary Smith for a few pence a week. Mary Smith traveled through predawn streets armed with a peashooter and a pocket watch, waking her clients at whatever hour they requested by plinking dried peas at their bedroom windows.In rollicking words and pictures, Andrea U'Ren re-creates one busy morning in the life of her intrepid true-life subject - a morning when Mary Smith helps her town start its day in timely fashion, only to receive a rude awakening when she comes home. Could it be that the knocker-up's own daughter has been sleeping in?   Mary Smith is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Author Notes

Andrea U'ren is also the creator of Pugdog ("Good dog," praised Kirkus Reviews ). She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

PreS-Gr. 2. Bulky Mary Smith strides through the streets with her peashooter, blowing pellets at people's windows. Mary is a knocker-up, and her job is to wake people. The baker, the laundry maids, even the mayor are targets, and they wave to show Mary they're arising. But when Mary arrives home, her own daughter is still in bed. Has the girl, of all people, been allowed to oversleep? No, she's been sent home from school for awakening a sleeping child with her own peashooter. Kids who don't (or can't) read the flap copy may wonder what's going on at first, but they will soon figure out the what and, more slowly, the why. The excellent afterword focuses on the real-life Mary and a few surprising facts about the first wake-up calls. Set against a background of early-morning blues and grays and traditional English buildings, U'Ren's well-drawn characters are full of humor, especially the robust Mary, who takes her job seriously, indeed. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Inspired by a historical curiosity, U'Ren's (Pugdog) robust tale will grab readers with its quirky subject matter and witty delivery, and encourage them to imagine the past. First introduced in a period photo, the real-life Mary Smith was a "knocker-up," someone hired to wake people; an endnote situates the need for this profession during the rise of modern factory and mill work. Only slowly does U'Ren reveal the fictionalized Mary's career, slyly piquing the audience's curiosity about the protagonist's purposeful, pre-dawn stride around London. "She takes one dried pea (wrinkly!) from her pocket and puts it into her peashooter. Then... she blows! Tink! She's hit the baker's window!" Her tour concludes at sunrise, when she returns home to her daughter, who has been dismissed from school. It turns out that the girl shot a pea at a sleeping classmate, hitting the teacher instead. "For shame!" rebukes the stout, no-nonsense Mary, before collapsing with laughter. "We really must work on your aim!" That gleeful irreverence pervades the story; in another example, to the mayor's "See you tomorrow morning, right?" Mary cheerily replies, "Dim and early!" U'Ren's London has the hearty, old-fashioned styling of early-20th-century illustration. She favors doughy-faced characters, broad washes of color and thick black outlines. At the same time her compositions are fresh and modern, merging with the semi-nostalgic style for a distinctive, appealingly quaint mood. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 3-Before folks in England had alarm clocks, they had "knocker-ups," people who, "for a few pennies," would shoot peas at their windows to wake them. A keen combination of historical fact, comical illustrations, and rib-tickling wit brings this pea-shooting Mary and her times to life. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.