• Happy birthday, Jim Harrison (The Boy Who Ran to the Woods).
  • It’s the birth date of Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (1892-1982), ghostwriter for Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books who took over the Stratemeyer Syndicate after the death of her father, Edward Stratemeyer (1862–1930), and Marjorie Henderson Buell (1904–1993), Little Lulu.
  • Happy birthday, Indiana, which became the nineteenth U.S. state in 1816, and to UNICEF, established in 1946.
  • It’s International Mountain Day, and this year’s theme is “mountain minorities and indigenous peoples.” Read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode, and the My Side of the Mountain trilogy by Jean Craighead George.

In December many hunt for books both to read and to give as gifts. Well, if you are hunting for a picture book for four- to eight-year-olds and could use a good laugh, I recommend the book of the day, Brock Cole’s The Money We’ll Save. I laughed so much the first time that I read this story I literally started to cry.

In a saga about a dysfunctional family living in a nineteenth-century New York City tenement, Ma needs two eggs and a half a pound of flour. All the children—Bailey, Bridget, Pearl, and baby Arthur—are busy, so she sends Pa to the store. She tells him to be careful shopping, because they need every penny they have since Christmas is on the way. Well, Pa manages to avoid a lot of temptations, but the chicken man convinces him to buy a turkey poult that can be fattened up for Christmas dinner. And, so, Pa returns, pleased as punch, thinking of the money they will save.

Although by now readers have an inkling that trouble is about to ensue, Cole plays out the rest of the story brilliantly. The family puts the bird, now named Alfred, in a wooden box by the stove. Soon Alfred, who quickly becomes a mess and a glutton, has to be placed in a pen on the fire escape. They hang the pen on a clothesline for a week, and then must bring the bird into their apartment. Alfred gets the bedroom, and the family moves into the kitchen. As the story unfolds, viewers watch with delight as the home, once ordered and neat, becomes chaotic and crowded. And, of course, in the end the children have no desire to eat their friend Alfred for dinner. Fortunately, a perfect ending rounds out this romp of a tale.

Brock Cole does so many things well in this book. He uses delicious language and sentences. He develops characters in both art and picture. He tells a story that you can read again and again, savoring it each time. In this holiday season, where many may have to think about economy, he reminds us of the true spirit of these days. He even gets turkeys right! Unfortunately, wild turkeys stalk the streets of my suburb, pecking at car tires and creating havoc. Never have I seen anyone capture these creatures so well in a book.

I’m happy to have a title that reminds me why the picture book format is so special, with its wonderful blend between text and art. And think of the money you’ll save by buying a book that you can read again and again and pass down to the next generation!

Here’s a page from The Money We’ll Save:


Originally posted December 11, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: 19th century, Animals, Birds, Christmas, History, Holidays
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Money We'll Save
One year ago: Art & Max


  1. Oh, my, I have now found a great book for the December 1 list for next year’s “Books Under the Tree” (http://bit.ly/tyDPaG) for my daughter and family….this is wonderful! And here is a toast of birthday cake to the Nancy Drew writer Harriet Adams and Marjorie Buell of Little Lulu, both real favorites of mine in childhood!

  2. suzi w. says:

    i’m putting a hold on a library copy right away! Maybe I’ll buy it for my father, the economist. I often buy him a picture book for Christmas, but they are usually informational. He has a great sense of humor, I would love to see him laugh til the tears run down his eyes.

    Thanks, Anita!!

  3. G. Perry says:

    Just this morning, I’ve finished The Goats, by Brock Cole and it was a wonderful book, and it brought back a flood of memories. As the still reigning record-holder (as far as I know) for number of run-aways from a religious nightmare of a children’s home, I ran neck-and-neck with the best there was. I may have been, the best there was. Big grin..

    Therefore, I cannot wait to get hands on this book by the same author.

    Thank you Lady Anita.

  4. McCourt says:

    Thanks for a new recommendation for under the tree at Christmastime. I also have to applaud “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” as a great read-aloud. Brief chapters make it easy to fit in on busy nights, and keep you eagerly wanting to read more. My kids all enjoyed it.

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