Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Top Five Books on Barter

Click on the title for each book to see book cover and more details.


Monkey for Sale
Author and Illustrator: Sanna Stanley 
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0-374-35017-5
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.3

Concepts: markets, prices, barter

Summary: Two girls make a series of trades in order to free a captured monkey. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the story conveys the excitement of Market Day. Luzolo has a five-franc coin to spend. Her parents caution her to choose wisely and bargain for a fair price. When she and Kiese discover that a village woman has captured a wild monkey to sell as a pet, the friends make it their mission to free it.

Source of Summary:
Publisher Weekly Review


One Fine Day
Author and Illustrator: Nonny Hogrogian
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
ISBN: 0-02-043620-3
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  3.5

Concepts: barter

After the old woman cuts off his tail when he steals her milk, the fox must go through a long series of transactions before she will sew it back on again.

Source of Summary: Publisher

Saturday Sancocho

Title: Saturday Sancocho
Author and Illustrator: Leyla Torres
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0-374-36418-2
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level:  4.4

Concepts: barter

Summary: Maria Lili spends Saturdays with her grandparents, Mama Ana and Papa Angelino, making a wonderful chicken stew called sancocho. One Saturday, she learns that the only food in the house is eggs; there is no money to buy what's needed for making the stew. Mama Ana tells Maria Lili to put the eggs in a basket and accompany her to the market, where the two go from stall to stall, bartering their goods. Young readers will enjoy seeing Mama Ana, a shrewd and experienced barterer, bargain for the best and biggest chicken and vegetables.

Source of Summary: Booklist

How to Get This Book

Title: Fleas!
Author:  Jeanne Steig
Illustrator: Britt Spencer
Publisher:  Philomel Books
ISBN:  978-0-399-24756-9
Year: 2008
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.3

Concepts:  barter, trade

Review: Quantz is a happy-go-lucky fellow whose fortune changes back and forth in the course of a single day filled with chance meetings and exchanges. He sets out to work in his vegetable garden but stumbles upon a shaggy dog in need of a good scratch. In return for his good deed, Quantz picks up a bad case of fleas. Fortunately Quantz meets a woman down the road who would rather have fleas than the talkative uncle who jabbers away in her ear, so they trade. Of course Quantz quickly tires of the constant chit-chat.  Luckily, he next meets a lonely man with a heavy load of cheese, so they barter, and the man has company while Quantz can nibble on some tasty cheese.

And so the story continues, with each trade making Quantz a bit happier. The brisk story-line and very funny, quirky illustrations make this book an appealing choice for teaching children about barter and exchange. These concepts are among the first economics lessons that kids learn at school and through their own experiences in daily life. Fleas! offers an amusing alternative for reinforcing the idea that trade can make people better off.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book

Title: Lucky Jake
Author:  Sharon Hart Addy
Illustrator:  Wade Zahares
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN:  978-0-61847286-4
Year:  2007

  barter, trade, natural resources, entrepreneurship

 Jake and his father had joined countless other prospectors in the west panning for gold.  Life was difficult, and Jake yearned for the company of a pet dog while his father dreamed of eating something other than beans.  Fortunately their luck turned around when Pa found a good-sized gold nugget.  Although the storekeeper had no dog to sell, Jake did wind up with a pet pig that had a nose for sniffing out long-forgotten treasures and ears for hearing unlikely visitors. Little did Jake and Pa know that these traits would start a chain of events that could help them make a living without having to pan for gold. 

This appealing book may start off with the simple premise of a child wanting a pet, but the story quickly develops into a clever story loaded with economics concepts that include natural resources, barter, and entrepreneurship.  Bold illustrations with unusual lighting and angles further add to Lucky Jake’s unique quality. The gold rush setting can help to spark a lively discussion with children about an important chapter in U.S. history and the challenges that prospectors faced when searching for gold.

Review by:
  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

How to Get This Book