Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

EconKids Home Top 5 Books by Concept Allocation and Distribution

Top Five Books on Allocation and Distribution

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Title: Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer
Author: Carol Brendler
Illustrator:  Ard Hoyt
Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN:  978-0-374-38440-1
Year:  2009

Concepts: distribution, allocation, natural resources, interdependence

Review: Winnie Finn desperately needs a new red wagon to cart around her beloved collection of earthworms, and she knows just the means of getting enough money to purchase one. The upcoming Quincy County Fair offers prize money for various categories, and Winnie hopes that she can win a prize for the best worms. Not only do her neighbors inform her that there is no such category, they are intent on winning awards themselves for things like tallest corn, most chicken eggs, and prettiest puppies. They even promise to share the money with anyone who can help them win. It's up to Winnie to find a way to have her neighbors make good on their promises, and perhaps her worms can help.

With its unconventional female protagonist and clever storyline, Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer packs a powerful punch with lessons in economics about distribution and natural resources. The blend of substantive content, an engrossing story, and delightful illustrations will leave a lasting impression about the possibilities that come with a good idea.

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: Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro
Author: Eduardo F. Calcines
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

ISBN: 978-0-374-34394-1
Year: 2009

Concepts:  poverty, scarcity, distribution, allocation, economics of government

Review:  As a very young child, Eduardo Calcines had the good fortune of living in a tight-knit community in the town of Cienfuegos, Cuba, with loving parents and grandparents, close friends, and economic security.  However, all this changed in 1959 after Eduardo turned three and Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba. Over time, Castro’s regime steadily took away almost all luxuries, many basic needs, and even some fundamental human rights that people across Cuba had enjoyed before the Revolution. Hunger, isolation, and fear became routine ways of life, particularly for families such as the Calcines family who did not join the Communist party and instead applied for exit visas to leave Cuba for the United States. Viewed as worms and traitors, Eduardo and his family endured a series of hardships and grievances while they waited for their number to get picked in the immigration lottery. 

This outstanding memoir provides a gripping account of life under Castro’s stranglehold over the Cuban economy and its people.  Mixed into the heart-wrenching descriptions of the difficulties that Eduardo endured as a child are amusing stories that reflect the innocence and joys of youth. Leaving Glorytown will leave readers with unforgettable lessons about the struggles that people experienced under Fidel Castro’s leadership and the opportunities that come with freedom.

Review by:
The Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: Jimmy's Stars
Author: Mary Ann Rodman
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

ISBN: 978-0-374-33703-2
Year: 2008

Concepts:  scarcity, allocation, distribution, production, jobs

Review: Ellie McKelvey, a sixth-grader from Pittsburgh, enjoyed baseball, going out to the movies with her brother Jimmy, and hanging out with her friends, but she despised Victoria Gandeck. After all, Victoria called Jimmy a slacker because he had not gone off to fight in the war like Victoria’s own four brothers.  Ellie knew that Jimmy had a deferment from the service because their family depended on his earnings. However, now that their dad had returned to work, it was only a matter of time before the draft board would call her brother into the service.

Jimmy reported for duty on October 2, 1943. Ellie missed her brother terribly, and she tried to take comfort in his promise to come home for Christmas. All around her, the war effort impacted every part of Ellie’s life.  Her Aunt Toots moved from West Virginia into their house, into Jimmy’s room, so she could get a factory job. Ellie’s mother also joined the likes of Rosie the Riveter and found work at a factory, her older sister got a job at the local diner when the owner’s daughter joined a volunteer women’s division of the navy, and Ellie found herself performing a growing number of household tasks. Daily routines changed as food items became rationed and as materials from children’s toys were recycled for wartime production. Even at school she could not escape the war, with her teacher’s bulletin board covered with pictures of former students and family members who had joined the military. Worst of all was the collective shock and grief when the telegram delivery boy brought news about the loss of a loved one.

By approaching the difficult theme of war through the eyes of an eleven-year old girl, Mary Ann Rodman makes the story both accessible and spellbinding for middle grade readers. Of particular interest is the book’s focus on major adjustments and sacrifices that adults and children made in their daily lives as part of the war effort, even though they were far removed from the actual fighting. Jimmy’s Stars also deserves high praise for its unpredictable plot, well-developed characters, and carefully-researched historical backdrop.

Review by:
The Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

How Santa Really Works
Author and Illustrator:  Alan Snow
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0-689-85817-5
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.4

jobs, allocation, incentives, production, capital resources

Summary: In this imaginative picture book, Santa oversees a vast operation with elves as toy designers, testers, makers, wrappers, and packers, not to mention spies (naughty or nice? asleep or awake?).

Source of Summary: Booklist