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The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
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The Pushcart War (1964)

by Jean Merrill

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MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9621314,324 (4.2)18
The outbreak of a war between truck drivers and pushcart peddlers brings the mounting problems of traffic to the attention of both the city of New York and the world.
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A perfectly serviceable book. It’s good for explaining to kids about war–how it starts, how it works. Like Animal Farm Lite. It’s so well-written, I thought it was a true story. I had to look up whether this was fiction or non-fiction.

It’s narrative fiction book about a conflict between pushcart peddlers and the truckers who want them off the streets. Although I said it’s good for teaching about war, there’s a clear “little guys vs. big bullies” allegory here, as the truckers are never put in a sympathetic light. The newspaper publisher in Newsies got better press than the truckers did.

This is as small a conflict as you expect from such a war, but that makes it accessible to readers. But it blows it up to talk about the Pea-Shooter Campaign as importantly as Sherman’s March. It’s different from any other children’s fiction book I’ve read. It’s good for the rare child who doesn’t like reading fiction, adding a little humor into it now and then to keep kids interested (but it’s no Sideways Stories from Wayside School). It gives kids what they don’t usually get in their fiction–politics, war theory, international issues, economics, civil liberties, propaganda, etc.

Problem is, I’m trying to figure out who this book is for, who I’d recommend it to, and I can’t think of anyone. It would be a great book for a social studies teacher to use in a classroom, to teach the issues mentioned above. But I don’t think I can recommend just picking it up and reading it. They love fantasy books like “Wings of Fire” and “Percy Jackson”, which put plot before message. This is a message book. But it’s a book of good taste so you feel smarter after reading it. ( )
  theWallflower | Nov 12, 2019 |
So, I mostly got this to read aloud to my family because I thought my 12 year old son would like it. Turns out we (mom and dad) enjoyed it just as much as he did. This is a satire of sorts, kind of David vs. Goliath story that will make you laugh as you see current world events and politics that are carried much the same way as The Pushcart War (which, btw, was a war between the vendors with pushcarts in New York City vs. the big trucking companies and truckers). Much to learn and laugh at here!
  wunderlong88 | Sep 12, 2018 |
Retrieved a record: Bibliographic match uncertain.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
Recently reread this for the first time since I was a kid. Had forgotten how awesome it was. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Mar 27, 2017 |
The first children's history of The Pushcart War - a fierce battle for control of the streets of New York City, waged between the city's pushcart peddlers and the trucking companies that want to put them out of business - this epic volume is by turns hilarious and heartwarming. The conflict all begins with the Daffodil Massacre, in which impatient trucker Albert P. Mack runs down peddler Morris the Florist on March 15th, 2026, destroying his cart and sending the man himself flying into a pickle barrel. Things only heat up from there, as the city's citizens, sick of the terrible traffic in their town, look for someone to hold responsible for the unending congestion, while the Big Three - owners of the city's three largest trucking companies - look for ways to make the pushcart peddlers the target of the public's ire, and to push them off the streets through brute force. The peddlers launch their own secret offensive, using pea-shooters to cause a massive number of flat tires and breakdowns, hoping to draw the public's attention to the real cause of the city's congestion. Inevitably, the conflict between peddlers and truckers eventually spills out into the public view, involving police, politicians, and everyday citizens - including children. In the end, despite being far fewer in number than their adversaries, the peddlers triumph in their effort to preserve their livelihood, and free the city from the tyranny of the truckers.

Originally published in 1964 and set in 1976, republished in 1974 and set in 1986, republished again in 1985 and set in 1996, and finally published in this 50th Anniversary Edition in 2014, and set in 2026, The Pushcart War is a delightful children's novel, one presented as if it were a history of a past event that occurred some years after the date of publication. Although this structure sounds rather convoluted, somehow the whole thing just works. I enjoyed everything about this book, from the overarching story, in which the little guy triumphs in the face of big business, in collusion with government, to the rich cast of quirky but lovable characters. General Anna, Mr. Jerusalem, Maxxie the Pushcart King! - they all come alive in Jean Merrill's story. I loved the New York setting, and found the social commentary both amusing and on point. I liked that the police were honest, and uncowed by the politicians, that the peddlers were concerned with defending their rights, but didn't want to trample on the rights of even their adversaries. Most of all, I just liked the wonderful sense of humor evident throughout the story, and also in the accompanying illustrations by Ronni Solbert. There are so many wonderful details here - both author and illustrator are credited with letters to the editor, in one part of the story - that all combine to create a wonderful book. Recommended to anyone looking for humorous children's stories that address issues of fairness in the public sphere, and the question of activism and standing up for what's right, even when one's opponent is powerful and influential. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Feb 16, 2017 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Merrill, Jeanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hammer, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solbert, RonniIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
FOR Milton, Martin, Morris, Moses, the two Michaels, and the other truck drivers I have known in and around Tompkins Square Park, AND FOR Mary, who will always blow up a picture if necessary
First words
The Pushcart War started on the afternoon of March 15, 1998, when a truck ran down a pushcart belonging to a flower peddler.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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