Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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New Picture Books in 2008

Just click on the titles to read our original reviews for these picture books and easy readers published in 2008.

Title:  Jenny Found a Penny
Author:  Trudy Harris
Illustrator:  John Hovell
Publisher:  Millbrook Press
ISBN:  978-0-8225-6725-7
Year: 2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.0

Concepts:  money, saving

  Teaching economics to younger children is straightforward when children already have an experience-based understanding of the concepts at hand.  Jenny Found a Penny takes this idea head on with its lessons about money and saving woven into an interesting story to which many children can relate. Not only does Jenny find a penny in the back seat of the car, but she uses that opportunity to start saving for a special item at the dollar store.  A hard worker, Jenny finds chores around the house that help her to earn a regular stream of coins for her savings jar.  Readers can use the realistic illustrations of the coins in the sidebars to add up the money that Jenny accumulates.  Children may also relate to Jenny’s misfortune at the cashier’s desk when she encounters the dreaded sales tax.  This book will appeal to parents and teachers who are seeking an eye-catching book that encourages children to think about money and do the math in a creative way.

Review by:
 Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title:  Lady Liberty: A Biography
Author:  Doreen Rappaport
Illustrator:  Matt Tavares
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
ISBN:  978-0-7636-2530-6
Year:  2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.8

Concepts:  human resources, jobs, scarcity, immigration, altruism

Review:  Told from the viewpoints of the people who conceptualized, financed, and built the Statue of Liberty, this remarkable book describes how the Lady Liberty was transformed from a bold idea in France to an enormous symbol of freedom in New York Harbor.  In France in 1865, Professor Édouard de Laboulaye shared with his colleagues his vision of building a monument to commemorate the American Revolution and to celebrate the friendship between France and the United States.  Ten years later this vision began to take shape through the hands of Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor who believed in the possibility of de Laboulaye’s dream.  It took another eleven years for various crews to design the copper sheeting, engineer the internal steel structure, ship the pieces to America, build the pedestal, erect the steel skeleton, attach the copper shell to the steel framework, and formally dedicate the Statue of Liberty. 

The author and illustrator do an excellent job in communicating both the visible and the less visible work involved in building the Statue of Liberty. Much credit goes to the efforts by poet Emma Lazarus to write the inspiring sonnet that was engraved on a plaque on the statue’s base:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”  Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, also played a crucial role in raising money to finance the construction of the pedestal in the face of opposition from government and business leaders.  Intertwined with the interesting historical narratives are valuable economics lessons about human resources, jobs, immigration, and altruism. The stunning artwork and informative text work well together to make reading this book a truly rewarding experience.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing
Author: Guo Yue and Clare Farrow
Illustrator:  Helen Cann
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN: 978-1-84686-114-7
Year: 2008

Concepts:  economic role of government, allocation, distribution, scarcity

Review:  A young boy named Little Leap Forward lives in a traditional courtyard in Beijing with his siblings and mother.  Protected by the naïveté of youth, he likes nothing more than to fly kites and skim stones along the river with his best friend. It is during one of their jaunts at the river that they capture a tiny yellow bird, and Little Leap decides to keep it as a pet.  Over the course of time, though, the little bird will not sing, even with all the special treats it receives, and Little Leap must consider the costs of his denying the bird its freedom.

This sweet tale is interwoven with a bleaker story about growing up in the aftermath of China’s Great Leap Forward and at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution.  Because food is still scarce, many items are rationed, and family members such as Little Leap must use ration tickets and wait in long queues when they purchase food.  The Cultural Revolution ushers in the Red Guards, with consequences that even the innocence of youth cannot hide from Little Leap.

This book is recommended most highly for its carefully crafted story and its portrayal of a momentous and chaotic period of China’s history from a child’s point of view.  The accompanying art work, superb in its own right, speaks volumes about the historical backdrop and the main character’s roles in his family and community.  The book is a true gem.  

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: Lila and the Secret of Rain
Author: David Conway
Illustrator:  Jude Daly
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1-84507-407-4
Year: 2008 (in USA)

Concepts:  natural resources, scarcity

Review:  Lila lives in a Kenyan village that has seen no rain in several months. The crops are withering, the cattle are suffering, and the heat is so unbearable the villagers cannot do their regular work. When Lila overhears mama saying that the well has dried up, her worries grow. In desperation, she seeks her grandfather's wisdom about the secret of rain and then leaves her village to try and accomplish the impossible.

With its vivid text and lovely illustrations, Lila and the Secret of Rain tells a powerful story about the value of water and the indispensable role that it plays in sustaining our livelihoods. Teachers and parents will appreciate this book as a helpful tool for teaching children about natural resources in an African context.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title:  Lucy's Cave: A Story of Vicksburg, 1863
Author and Illustrator:  Karen B. Winnick
Publisher:  Boyds Mills Press
ISBN:  978-1-59078-194-4
Year: 2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.4

Concepts:  scarcity, needs, economics and conflict

  During the Civil War, Vicksburg, Mississippi came under attack by Union army gunboats from the Mississippi River.  The siege lasted forty-seven days, during which many families and their slaves fled to the hills around the city and took refuge in a series of caves and tunnels.  This book is based on the published remembrances of Lucy McRae, who experienced the Vicksburg siege and the cave shelter as an eleven-year old child.  Told from a child’s point of view, the fearful sounds and vibrations of shell explosions help Lucy to accept the necessity of living in this dark and damp enclosure.  She has more trouble accepting the gestures of friendship from annoying Liddy Lord until a bad accident shows her the importance of friends and community.  

            With its carefully-researched text and oil paintings in the style of Civil War era artists, Lucy’s Cave is historical fiction for kids at its finest.  The book also embraces important lessons in economics related to scarcity and needs.  Families who may have lived prosperously before were now eating lumpy cornmeal gruel for dinner, sleeping on wooden planks with pieces of carpet, hauling buckets of water for subsistence and buckets of human waste for disposal, cooking on a communal fire, kneading bread made from animal feed, and living endless days in a dimly lit cavern.  Lucy’s Cave makes a valuable addition to any collection of children’s books with substantive content intertwined with an appealing story.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book