A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jean Merrill's classic satire/political novel The Pushcart War, first published in 1964, uses a battle over space on New York City's streets as a metaphor for war. It's a relatively innocent, humorous look at the way adults, and countries, fight for territory and dominance, complete with government interference, David-and-Goliath weaponry, clandestine strategy meetings, and media influence. The book includes several violent acts, some more harmful than others; the most aggressive and frightening involves large trucks mowing down pushcart peddlers. No one dies, and there's no blood, but several people are injured. The seriocomic tale gives young readers a view of warfare's evils and complexities, and lessons about their world.
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What's the story?
On the surface, Jean Merrill's classic satire THE PUSHCART WAR is a story about mighty truckers and gentle pushcart peddlers battling for territory on the streets of New York. Each side blames the other for the city's traffic problems and aims to push its rival off the road, whether by force or through the power of public opinion. The advantage shifts back and forth as the two sides fight and strategize. Peddlers land in the hospital, a trucker and a vendor land in jail, and then the media get involved. Just below the surface, the story offers a humorous, incisive look at the complexities of warfare.
Is it any good?
Jean Merrill's The Pushcart War couches an insightful view of conflict and war in a funny, charming story. Readers can't help but love and root for the sweet old-fashioned pushcart peddlers; Ronni Solbert's original black-and-white drawings emphasize the vendors' quaint unsuitability for "war." Simple and easy to read, the book offers a point of departure for thoughtful conversations about conflict resolution, politics, and the media.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Pushcart War -- first published in 1964 -- is still timely. What events of its era might it have been commenting on? If you were writing the 21st century version, would you change anything about the characters or the story?
How is The Pushcart War similar to or different from other books you've read featuring battles or warfare. What does it teach about fighting?
What lesson do you think you're supposed to take away from The Pushcart War?
- Author: Jean Merrill
- Illustrator: Ronni Solbert
- Genre: Transportation
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Yearling Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1964
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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