Pushcarts and Poopypants

I’m rereading The Pushcart War for the millionth time. What a great book! This time through I’m noticing the outright absurdity of some of the situations. Like the newspaper editor who wants to know how long Mack’s truck is. So he blows up a photo until Mack’s head is life size and then he knows the truck is life-size, too. So he unrolls it in a park and measures it.
All that makes it even more incredible that when I was a kid I was rather inclined to believe that The Pushcart War had been a real event.

Perhaps what convinced me was the “pile of papers” effect, which I used in Qwikpick. Merril sticks all sorts of stuff into the book: conversations, TV show dialogue, diary excerpts, fake news and, memorably a long list from the phone book of things bought and sold in NYC that start with the letter “P.”

Interesting that Merrill’s kid-who-makes-toothpaste book is so widely remembered by people, but this book isn’t. I think Pushcart is by far the superior book.

Meanwhile, I saw the happiest kid in the world today. He was reading Captain Underpants vs. Professor Poopypants. If you can call it reading when a kid is running around hollering, falling all over himself and constantly saying stuff out loud.
Good to see a kid made that happy by reading a book. I had a similar experience with Lizard Music about 30 years ago.

Cece and I lamented that we’ll never know that much joy from a book again. I mean, we love books but we rarely have to get up and run around the house screaming and yelling because Trollope (in my case) or Zadie Smith (in Cece’s case) made an astute observation regarding human nature.

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4 Responses

  1. I don’t know … I just finished reading “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” and there were several times when I felt compelled to share something with my wife — the nature of the tests, the chess question that I got wrong, Candice’s secret, etc.. Not quite running around the house screaming it, I guess, but still something like the same kind of fun, I think.

  2. My equivalent now is that sometimes I have to stop reading and just sit very still because what I’ve been reading is so, so good (most recently with The Elegance of the Hedgehog).

    There was another book, not by Merrill, that I thought went well with The Pushcart War and Toothpaste Millionaire. A kid invented a soda-pop concentrate that was going to make him a bunch of money, but then found that it also eliminated friction. A cursory Google search has failed to turn up title or author, however.

    Neeble neeble!

  3. Wow, I can’t believe you read the soda pop/friction book! I loved that book, too, but can’t remember the title. It seems to me that it may have been a very long title.

    I have a dim memory of which shelf it came from there in the old Staunton Library basement kids’ area. And I remember one particular scene from the book. But not enough info to find it.

    Anyone else remember it?

  4. Oooo-oo! I think I’ve got this one!

    “Bob Fulton’s Amazing Soda Pop Stretcher” by Beatty Jerome, Jr.

    Almost totally unavailable right now, according to Amazon.com. (They currently have one used copy listed, going for $50 or so.)

    I need to find my copy now. I didn’t realize it was such a hot property.

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