Friday, June 26, 2015

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars and The Pushcart War (New York Review Books)

"Jean Merrill (1923–2012) was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up on a dairy and apple farm near Lake Ontario. She received a master’s degree in English literature from Wellesley in 1945 and later studied folklore in India on a Fulbright fellowship. She worked for many years as an editor at Scholastic Magazine, Literary Cavalcade, and the publications department of Bank Street College before turning to writing full time." This summary was obtained from the New York Review Books. Today, I am reviewing two of her books - The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars and The Pushcart War.

The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars is a 40 page picture book that has thrilled children for nearly 40 years. In this story, there is an elephant who likes to smash small cars. It doesn't matter what color car. If it's small and drives down his road, he smashes it! One day a car salesman opens a small car store, and the elephant smashes all his cars. The man is upset, but thinks about it, and decides to sell large cars instead. The elephant is unable to smash these small cars, so the man rams the elephant with the large cars. The man and elephant eventually reach a conclusion of no smashing small cars and no ramming the elephant with the large cars. This is a cute story with simple crayon-like illustrations that is a delight for myself and my son, and is quickly becoming a household favorite.

The Pushcart War recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its release. This allegorical tale takes place in New York City in a time when pushcarts ran rampant in the streets and belligerent truck drivers occupying the streets and constantly delaying traffic. The people of New York were not happy with the truck drivers, but the truck drivers had money and therefore bought favor with the mayor. They also blamed the traffic congestion on the pushcart peddlers. Thus, a war between the two factions broke out. Truck drivers destroyed pushcarts. Pushcart peddlers blew out tires of the truck drivers and dared the drivers to run them over. It reminded me of the man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. What's the resolution? Who won the war? You're going to have to read the book to find out.

The book is 200+ pages, but the pages fly by when reading it. I read 100 pages before I even realized it. The book actually presents itself as real history, which I found charming and clever. The main message of the story is timeless and what makes this a must read for young and old alike. It is an underdog story; one that preaches resistance and standing up for your rights. I hope my son will appreciate this book when he is older, because it is definitely going on his shelf for him to discover at a later age in life. Now, I need to find some more Jean Merrill books to read, because she has thoroughly impressed me.

These books were provided to me for free by New York Review Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found these review helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!