Originally published in 1964, I reread The Pushcart War to prepare for a summer trip to New York City. This is the story of how the owners of the small wooden pushcarts that sell anything and everything on New York City streets won the “war” against the truck owners who were trying to have them banned from those streets.
This is a book that has been republished several times. It is set a few years in the future and tells the story of this conflict over pushcarts in New York City as a historical account. I read the original story when I was in Grade 4. Even though there was an “introduction” written from the future (1976), the story was so realistic that I thought this “war” had really happened. When I first read it, I had never been to New York City, but the characters and the dialogue really sounded like New York City to my nine year old brain. When I read it this year, over fifty years later, having been to New York City many times, the characters and dialogue still sound like New York City. That’s how authentic it is.
The author, Jean Merrill, was a well-known children’s author and the illustrator, Ronni Solbert, often worked with Merrill. This was their best known work. This is a story that stays with you because in it, the underdog wins. In several blogs this summer, I have been considering how youth can be better activists and how you can support them. Last week’s book was about feeding and nourishing activists, about nourishing an activist’s body, but The Pushcart War nourishes their soul.
If you’d like to read more than this review before reading The Pushcart War, this article from the New Yorker is very good. I am reading this book to conjure up a feeling of New York before spending a few days there. You could also consider reading it to a young child to give them a sense of New York – and a sense of justice!
(Note: I read the 2014 50th Anniversary edition of this book published by the New York Review of Books KIDS edition in 2014.)