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Farewell, Pushcart Queen
August 12, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Farewell Pushcart Queen: Jean Merrill has passed away from cancer. Many of her 30 books were young adult stories which followed underdogs in conflict with powerful interests. Her most well-known books were The Pushcart War, about a confrontation between New York pushcarts and the trucking industry, and The Toothpaste Millionaire, about a young African American entrepreneur who challenges big business. (previously)

The Pushcart War was one of those childhood books which changed my life forever, teaching me the importance of activism and civic participation. Merrill's stories also show how much fun organising can be. We have lost a great and creative soul, someone capable of introducing young people to issues that matter with passion and a twinkle in her eye.
posted by honest knave (33 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Via @RoseFox)
posted by honest knave at 11:03 AM on August 12, 2012


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I love The Pushcart War. Never read The Toothpaste Millionaire--I think maybe I need to.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2012


I've never read any of her works. Looks like I've missed out on something good, and I better get crackin' on it.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:11 AM on August 12, 2012


I was just talking about The Pushcart War with several friends last week, all of whom describe it as core to their developing social justice orientation as kids. So, thank you, Jean Merrill, for the influence you had on my generation of activists.

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posted by gingerbeer at 11:13 AM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh geez, I've thought about The Toothpaste Millionaire many times since reading it in elementary school. It made a huge impression on me.

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posted by Sokka shot first at 11:13 AM on August 12, 2012


The Pushcart War has had a lasting impact on me, helped me to always believe in direct action and that individuals can triumph against "the big guys"

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posted by kuppajava at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't thought about The Pushcart War in years. What a wonderful, lovely book. I think I need to read The Toothpaste Millionaire as well.
posted by jeather at 11:48 AM on August 12, 2012


I've had it on my to-do list for a year to write to her and tell her how much I appreciated this book.

I guess it's time to go through my to-do list and look for other things I'll really, really regret never doing.
posted by escabeche at 12:12 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved the Pushcart War. I remember thinking it was a true story the first time I read it :)
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:27 PM on August 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 12:28 PM on August 12, 2012


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This brings back memories. I wish I had my readers from elementary school. Is the toothpaste millionaire the story where the kid makes toothpaste out of baking soda? I loved that even though I tried to follow the recipe and thought it was disgusting.
posted by missmerrymack at 12:37 PM on August 12, 2012


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posted by pernoctalian at 12:39 PM on August 12, 2012


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posted by localroger at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2012


I wrote Jean a year or so ago to tell her how much I had enjoyed The Pushcart War and she wrote a lovely letter back, and I think we write a few times more. I now want to track down some of her other writing -- she wrote a number of children's books based on the folklore of Asian countries, a result of her having been a Fulbright Scholar in India.

RIP Jean. I think I shall give copies of The Pushcart War to all the children I know for the holidays this year.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved The Pushcart War, I must've read it every summer between 6th grade and high school. The images and memories are totally tied into hot August days like the one I'm currently avoiding doing yard work in right now. However, my main memory of the story is how disappointed I was when I found out it wasn't real. I have no higher praise for a book than that.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2012


BY HAND


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posted by Spatch at 1:17 PM on August 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I loved The Pushcart War. It was one of those books I picked up at random without expecting much, and it proved to be such an engrossing story. Sigh. We've lost a lot of good authors this year.
posted by PussKillian at 1:34 PM on August 12, 2012


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posted by grimmelm at 1:41 PM on August 12, 2012


Someone loaned both Pushcart War and Toothpaste Millionaire to me earlier this year saying I really needed to read them. Sounds like I know what I need to read next.
posted by jessypie at 2:14 PM on August 12, 2012


I read a condensed version of The Toothpaste Millionaire in elementary school, probably fourth grade. We had these reading workbooks, and in the very back of the book would be one of these condensed stories. You cut the pages out, folded them into a signature, and awkwardly stapled them together to make a little book.

Why do I remember all this?
posted by xedrik at 3:25 PM on August 12, 2012


Boy did I love The Pushcart War, set in the far-off year 1986 (I read it in 1989).
posted by infinitewindow at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by Halloween Jack at 4:57 PM on August 12, 2012


I wrote Jean a year or so ago to tell her how much I had enjoyed The Pushcart War and she wrote a lovely letter back

I did this a couple of years ago (the the help of a friend in high places), and I got a nice letter back, too! She was very gracious and kind, and she wrote the freakin' Pushcart War, which ought to be on every grade school reading list. She put the "civil" back in civil disobedience.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:15 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Pushcart War was one of my favorites growing up. A far more honest description of how politics works than anything else directed at kids.

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posted by Tsuga at 7:16 PM on August 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ahhhhh. Toothpaste Millionaire is one of the few books I remember from my childhood, and set my mind aflame with ideas of conquering industries.

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posted by intermod at 7:52 PM on August 12, 2012


I find myself thinking of The Toothpaste Millionaire every now and then. A great book, and I'll forever remember how many units are in a gross. even though that bomb plot came out of nowhere and was already in resolution when brought up
posted by Xere at 8:00 PM on August 12, 2012


I can't believe I never sought out any of her other books, considering how much I loved The Pushcart War. Just the other day I was walking past a fruit vendor in midtown and laughed at the thought of him shooting the tires of trucks with a peashooter. Now off to reserve The Toothpaste Millionaire at the library.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 9:11 PM on August 12, 2012


Oh no! I have my original copy of the Pushcart War, with a note I had written to her, that I kept meaning to send to her (with the help perhaps of the same friend in high places as GenjiandProust) in hopes of having her sign my book. Now I have missed my chance to let her know how much I loved that book and how I think of it every time I see a Mack truck.
posted by katemonster at 10:59 PM on August 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


My deepest sympathies to those who knew and loved her. Rest in peace.
posted by terrapin at 7:35 AM on August 13, 2012


Some people know this but Jean was one of my landladies where I live in Vermont, the more shy and retiring one along with Ronni who was the illustrator of the Pushcart War among many other talents and accomplishments. I met Ronni (and found out about the apartment) through the computer classes I teach. I did not know until reading this obit that Jean (who I always revered for writing the Pushcart War) also wrote the Toothpaste Millionaire which I had also loved as a kid. She was well loved and she'll be sorely missed.
posted by jessamyn at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Jessamyn: Do send our deepest #mefi condolences to Ronni.
posted by honest knave at 5:18 AM on August 15, 2012


Ah! The Pushcart War!! I remember reading that in 3rd or 4th grade back in 1975 or '76. I can still being mesmerized by it. I was also going to post an AskMefi about it, but now I don't have to.

RIP Jean Merrill. I'm eternally indebted to you for both the experience of reading that wonderful book and the lessons it taught me.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:42 AM on August 20, 2012


InsertNiftyNameHere: "I can still remember being mesmerized by it."
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 3:44 AM on August 20, 2012


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