Toothpaste Millionaire

by Jean Merrill
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

If you liked The Pushcart War, you’ll like The Toothpaste Millionaire. Middle schoolers Kate and Rufus decide to start making their own toothpaste and quickly realize, with the help of their math class, how quickly they could make a lot of money, even if they don’t vastly overcharge for their product like the big companies do. Rufus ends up retiring as a millionaire before eighth grade. One of our regular library patrons, a boy who’s probably in 5th or 6th grade, hangs out for hours at a time at the table in our graphic novel section. A couple of times in a row, he asked me for this book. Never checked it out, and I could never figure out why he wanted it, so I decided to read it. The other day I asked him – turns out it was for a school project.

This book touches on race issues a bit, in a way that stands out to a reader in 2014 but probably was very matter-of-fact and even super progressive for a reader in 1972 (the book’s original copyright). Rufus is black and Kate is white. The bank manager who gives them the loan is white, while Hector, whom they hire to run their factory, is black, and asks the kids if they discriminate.

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