Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

EconKids Home New Books New Picture Books in 2011 (First Word A-I)

New Picture Books in 2011

Just click on the titles to read our original reviews for these picture books and easy readers published in 2011.

Title: A Suitcase Surprise for Mommy
Author: Cat Cora 
Illustrator: Joy Allen
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3332-9
Year: 2011

Concepts: jobs, tradeoffs, caring labor

Review: After young Zoran is upset about his mother’s upcoming business trip, his mother suggests that he find something special for her to put in her suitcase. This way she will be reminded of him while she travels, and it will be like he is with her the whole time. Zoran looks all over his room for the perfect something special but cannot find it. Finally he lights upon an idea – he will give his mother the picture he drew for her at school. It is just the perfect size for her to bring everywhere with her and show to her co-workers, and its message of “I love you Mommy” is just what she needs to hear.

Chef Cat Cora’s book was inspired by her own son giving her something special for her suitcase whenever she travels. The book is a perfect read-aloud for parents to prepare their children for when they are traveling for business or returning to work after an absence. It is also a launching pad for discussing economic concepts, such as why parents need to work in the first place.

Joy Allen’s sweet, colorful illustrations add to the loving, homey feel that the book conveys. Small details, such as the reactions of Zoran’s cat to various actions, are a charming addition. 

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel  
Author and Illustrator:  Dan Yaccarino
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-375-86642-5
Year: 2011

Concepts: child schooling and work, entrepreneurs, good/services, poverty producers/consumers

Review:  In this picture book, author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino tells about his own family’s personal history. His great-grandfather Michael Yaccarino (nee Michele Iaccarino) grew up in a small village in Italy, using a little shovel to work hard tending to the family’s crops. But now matter how hard the family worked, they lived in poverty. So Michael left Italy for America to search for better economic opportunities, with his parents handing him the little shovel, some family photographs, a family recipe for tomato sauce, and the advice to work hard, enjoy life, and remember family. The book then follows Michael’s life and work in New York and that of his successive generations. Throughout all the changes in the family, each father would hand down to his son the little shovel and the advice that came from Michael’s parents back in Italy.

This book is a celebration of both family and hard work. With each generation, the reader sees yet another business venture put forth by the Yaccarino family – whether it’s pushcart peddling, opening a market, running a restaurant, or even writing and illustrating children’s books – and how the little shovel helped in every context.

The illustrations, created using gouache on watercolor paper, are bright and appealing. They give the impression of a family scrapbook, which is further accented by the framed “photographs” of the family over time displayed at the end. Children will delight in finding the little shovel at work in each of the Yaccarino generations’ labors. There are also numerous fun details to be found in the illustrations, such as a game of bocce ball at a family dinner or a small cat skittering about in a bakery.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title:  Annie Shapiro and the Clothing Workers' Strike 
Author: Marlene Targ Brill
Illustrator:  Jamel Akib
Publisher: Lerner Publications
ISBN: 978-1-58013-672-3
Year: 2011

Concepts: human resources, strikes, jobs, economics of gender, producers, social justice

Review: When Hannah Shapiro’s mother had become sick five years ago, Hannah (nicknamed Annie) withdrew from school to help pay the doctor’s bills and also care for all her siblings.  She had found a job as a seamstress in a men’s clothing factory.  By 1910, Annie had five years of work experience, but she still earned very little and worked under extremely poor conditions.  At this time, the U.S. had no national labor laws, and numerous factory owners exploited their workers, especially women, children, and immigrants.  

One day when the foreman in charge of the sweatshop where Annie worked announced an arbitrary cut in the workers’ wages, Annie shook with rage and decided she would no longer tolerate working for such low pay in an awful environment. Followed by fifteen of her coworkers, Annie walked out of the shop.  When the foreman refused their wage demands the next day, Annie decided to organize the workers and fight for their rights.  Her actions ultimately led to a city-wide strike of forty thousand workers that did not end until employers agreed to find ways to meet the workers’ demands.

This book provides young learners with a highly readable account of working conditions and labor relations during the early 1900s in America’s garment industry.  The author’s careful research has resulted in an interesting historical narrative that can also be used to initiate discussions about working conditions in today’s factories here and abroad.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children


How to Get This Book

Title: Anna Hibiscus' Song 
Author:  Atinuke
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Publisher:  Kane Miller
ISBN:  978-1-61067-040-1
Year:  2011

Concepts: caring labor, gender division of labor in the home

Review:  The endearing character Anna Hibiscus has returned, this time in full color in a lushly illustrated picture book. Anna's positive outlook and good cheer run abundant as she engages with members of her extended African family in the family compound. She especially likes playing with her cousins and helping her aunties to pound yams in the courtyard.

This book offers young children a brief glimpse of one of the economics themes found in the Anna Hibiscus easy readers, namely the gender division of labor within the home. As with the easy readers, this picture book illustrates some features of the daily way of life of a large extended family in an urban African setting. 

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend
Author: Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud
Illustrator: John Holyfield
 Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4058-3
Year: 2011

Concepts:  discrimination, social justice, jobs, racial inequality.

Review:  While young Alex sat on a bench outside waiting for his mother, he passed the time observing an old mule chomping away on collard greens in someone’s garden. Turns out that garden belonged to Miz Pettway, a senior citizen as full of stories as she was enamored with that mule.

It did not take long before Alex learned that this mule, Belle, had played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. Not only did Belle help to pull wagonloads of African Americans around the river to vote in Camden after the white folks there shut down the ferry, Belle was also one of two mules that pulled the coffin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Atlanta after his assassination.

John Holyfield’s striking acrylic paintings add an even deeper layer of meaning to this simple story about how an impoverished town in Alabama became engaged in the Civil Rights movement with a famous quilting group and a less famous but equally important mule named Belle. The book makes a valuable resource for introducing concepts such as discrimination, jobs, and social justice to young readers who are beginning to learn about the history of U.S. race relations.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children


How to Get This Book