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The Toothpaste Millionaire

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,228 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
Sixth-grader Rufus Mayflower doesn't set out to become a millionaire. He just wants to save on toothpaste. Betting he can make a gallon of his own for the same price as one tube from the store, Rufus develops a step-by-step production plan with help from his good friend Kate MacKinstrey. By the time he reaches the eighth grade, Rufus makes more than a gallon -- he makes a ...more
Paperback, Illustrated, 129 pages
Published May 8th 1974 by Harcourt Children's Books (first published 1972)
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Galaxy its not true but i think at the end of the book or my teacher told me that its like based on a true story but not the same names and not exactly the…moreits not true but i think at the end of the book or my teacher told me that its like based on a true story but not the same names and not exactly the same but they sold toothpaste andbecame a millionare(less)

Community Reviews

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Brianna Helmer
Oct 20, 2014 Brianna Helmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dr. Sykes
As part of UMHB's READ 3307, I read The Toothpaste Millionaire. This is a fun and educational story that will catch older readers attention and help them gain interest in new topics like economics and inventions. The story follows Kate, a 6th grader and her friend Rufus, who is a genius. Rufus has formulated a type of toothpaste because he is outraged at the cost of the toothpaste available in stores. The book is about how he markets and sells his toothpaste and the expansion of his business whi ...more
Melissa McShane
This is a great little story about how an idea becomes a product becomes a business. As a child, I loved the idea that a kid could become a millionaire by creating something everyone used and then selling it at a reasonable price. As an adult, I enjoy the interactions between the characters. Rufus isn't too smart to take advice from his friend Kate, and through helping Rufus, Kate discovers a talent for writing. The technology is a little dated, and today's children may not be familiar with how ...more
Apr 09, 2013 Trena rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an adorable book about a smart boy and his friends. It is really a shocking tale of a great idea. I loved it, I even did a book report on it. The story of how I found it starts in my 4th grade elementary library. The library was having a book sale because they wanted to get more books. So When I saw it I just wanted to get it because I thought it would be cool. Boy did it go past my expectations!
Great book on being a young entrepreneur... I enjoyed it every bit as much as my son did.... I think he would have benefited from reading it at a slightly older age - maybe 9. He understood quite a bit of the math but not all of it because we obviously haven't covered those concepts yet.... we own this book so we'll reread it in a couple of years.
Jacqui Ainsworth
Jan 06, 2008 Jacqui Ainsworth rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: preteens
Shelves: homeschooling
I really enjoyed this one. It has many educational aspects without being a beat your head over it type of book. It deals with racism, sexism, math, stocks, accounting, and more all in a quick read. I read it on my own when I found myself bookless but I'll be sharing it with my kids very soon.
Angie Libert
Sep 26, 2012 Angie Libert rated it really liked it
A great kid's book that has stimulated alot of conversation on frugality, making stuff, and business ownership. Thanks for the lead JoDean. This is a definite reread!
Anastasia Tuckness
I really love this book. I have read it twice and just think it is so very interesting. It covers so many themes--racism, social inequity, gender stereotypes, and of course economics (the main focus). And yet it's super readable and interesting.

bottom line: Highly recommended as part of a homeschool curriculum and as a read-aloud for families with school-age children.
Haylee Allen
Oct 04, 2016 Haylee Allen rated it really liked it
I liked it.
Considering the original publication date of this book, 1972, it’s surprising that one of the primary characters is African American. Kate MacKinstrey tells the story of how she and Rufus, two kids who didn’t quite fit in with their peers, became friends over making things and then started a business. Kate is new to town and is having trouble making friends until Rufus helps her clean up her spilled backpack one day on the way to school. She’s intrigued by his messenger bag he made for himself ( ...more
Nov 02, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Jean Merrill passed away last year (2012) and there was a thread on MetaFilter where people reminisced about how much her books had meant to them, and now I've finally gotten around to reading a couple of them. Of the two I read, The Toothpaste Millionaire is written for a somewhat younger audience than The Pushcart War, but both were very smart and focused on challenging notions about race, class, and the ability of children and underdogs to make real change.

In The Toothpaste Millionaire, our y
May 17, 2013 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids
This was a very good read for my 9 year old son and I together. The story of the narrator's friend Rufus coming up with a business idea, following through with it, AND providing all of the math problems that led them to their entertaining and a good subversive way of getting some math instruction in.

I found my son trying to do the math in his head before I got to the explanations in the book, which was great.

There are parts of the story where the narrator wonders aloud about the effects of bigot
Abigail Larsen
Nov 17, 2013 Abigail Larsen rated it it was amazing
If you're in search of a light, humorous read (with a little academic value thrown in) for that upcoming fishing trip with the kids, look no further than The Toothpaste Millionaire. Rufus, a sixth-grader with an unusually keen entrepreneurial bent, and his matter-of-fact friend Kate (from whose perspective this story unfolds) team up to invent a new, better, and cheaper toothpaste. The creation process begins with an average kitchen and empty baby food jars. Rufus and Kate must not only develop ...more
Sep 15, 2016 Tracey rated it really liked it
Would like this book for a third or fourth grade book club. Lexile at 870.
Tony Bradshaw
Apr 25, 2014 Tony Bradshaw rated it really liked it
Spoiler alert!

I take the time to write a review because I want to remember some of the ways that the characters create and handle their business challenges.

Stockholders: The main character, a 6th grade boy, convinces other people to work for him not for money today but a return on the investment of time later on. He has a projection of where sales will be and the profit he'll make, and those who help in the early stages get ownership in the company. 100 hours equals one share in the profits, whi
Clara Gee
Feb 08, 2016 Clara Gee rated it really liked it
I love this book and here's how I came to read it. My mom homeschools me and told me to read this book. I was like okay. So I read the chapters I was told to read but didn't want to stop because by that time I was loving the book. So I got my mom to let me read it some more and finished it that very morning I started it. I read it a few more times after that but then our copy disappeared. I searched in vain for it but couldn't find it. Then two or three years late I was looking in my older broth ...more
Feb 22, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I learned a valuable lesson or two with this book. If I read it that was long ago because it's been around as long as I can remember. A 5/6th grade Math teacher asked for recommendations and since this book always comes up when searching for "math" fiction I decided I should investigate.

My copy is about 30 years old, and it is ugly. Who would want to read it? Well, I did and the book is valuable! If you haven't read it, do so. There is a good reason this book is still included in many Opening Da
Oct 18, 2013 Bushra added it
"The Toothpaste Millionaire" is a book about a boy named Rufus and how his friend named Kate MacKinstrey and how she helps him create a business of toothpaste. Just by the title of the book you might know by now that he grew up to be a millionaire. Rufus was a really brave boy to create a business with his friend. He grows up to be a very rich millionaire. He creates this business when he goes to the store and finds out that the toothpaste is worth the type of amount of money that wouldn't be as ...more
Oct 29, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it
We read this for our economics class, and the boys loved it. This book was published in 1972, so there are some dated ideas, and of course, even a little 70's political propoganda thrown in for good measure. I loved the use of math throughout the book, and I loved Rufus and Kate. Such great protagonists! They were smart, and independent, and wonderfully ethical. They worked hard and valued what others had to offer. Most of the characters had a strong work ethic and the most of the adults played ...more
Apr 06, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
This book is a historical fiction chapter book. I would suggest it for 3-5th graders. This story takes place in the 1960's in Cleveland, Ohio. The story is about two sixth graders, Rufus Mayflower who is African American and his friend Kate MacKinnstrey. The story is being told from the perspective of Kate. Although the main focus of the book is about Rufus who is very good with numbers and Kate creating a million dollar business and the mathematics of that process, i think that there is a lot o ...more
Amy C
May 21, 2009 Amy C rated it really liked it
I loved this book as a kid. It made me want to become a kid entrepreneur and fire up a printing press in the garage. It had been such a long time since I read it as a kid that I began to doubt that I had actually read it. But I always had the story in the back of my head. I hadn't seen or heard anything about it since the 70s. Then I found an old copy in a thrift store last year for a buck. Joy! I brought it home and read it to my son. He loves it! I don't know if the newer version (currently in ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Vivian rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
This excellent little gem on entrepreneurship (now there's a big word for you) can be read in a day -- as proved by my fifteen year old daughter who read (and loved) it this week! I read this years ago and was delighted when she picked it up on her own. I think it should be a "must read" for all kids. Our library owns it and it is hardly ever borrowed.

Not only is it a little treatise on free enterprise, but it also addresses racism -- a white girl moves into a predominantly black neighborhood --
A young girl describes how her school friend made over a million dollars by creating and marketing a cheaper and better toothpaste. This provides a very clear explanation of how an individual starts a business and becomes an entrepreneur. Very age appropriate and enjoyable to read. A great read-aloud for elementary classrooms with across-the-curriculum connections to math. The author uses characters children will relate to through friendship and school situations. Told from a unique point of vie ...more
Nov 17, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-readers
The was well written and it let me know you can be a entrepreneur at any age. Rufus main goal wasn't to be a millionaire but to help the people but afford toothpaste. I love the fact thar is best friend and business partner was a girl named Kate who happened to be white and he was black. Kate had a hard time making friends with other African Americans but Rufus didn't see it as a problem. The time period for this book was in the 1960s so you can understand the time. The author also used real mat ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Connie rated it really liked it
What a fun read. And in the midst of the fun, the value of the dollar, truthfulness in marketing, economics, the results of hard and patient work, the importance of math, the value of encouraging young minds, the beauty of people of different races and ages working together are all addressed. By the way, the millionaire could NOT have done it himself and he blessed his helpers with respect, appreciation, and concern for their welfare. It didn't hurt that in addition to the entrepreneur's abiliti ...more
Rick Stuckwisch
Sep 30, 2016 Rick Stuckwisch rated it it was amazing
Somehow this book had escaped my notice until recently. Written by the author of the Pushcart War (one of my all time favorite classics), I discovered the Toothpaste Millionaire after rereading that book to my younger children. This one is fairly short and a fast read, but it is a delightful story. It's fresh and breezy and lighthearted, but deals in a natural way with significant issues. Highly recommended.
Ahmad Hassan
Aug 10, 2011 Ahmad Hassan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book Rufus Mayflower try to save money on toothpaste . His plan was to make his own and sell it for less money. His plan worked. He then started a bussinse with kids in his math class. They started to sell toothpaste for 15 CENTS. In the end Rufus realize that helping people is what he did best. Read the book to find out more.i RECOMMED THIS BOOK TO EVERYBODY. iT IS REALLY A GREAT BOOK.
This was a FUN, quick read. Great story which naturally incorporated opportunities to discuss racial diversity, math, economics, ingenuity, and risk-taking. I think I'm going to buy a copy for each of my children's teachers once they hit 4th grade. At that point, they should be able to work out the math problems that are presented in the book as part of the story.

It may sound boring to have math in a book, but it really was presented in a funny, entertaining way.
Sep 06, 2011 Lion rated it it was amazing
A white girl called Kate McKinstrey moves from Connecricut to Cleveland, Ohio. She immediately makes friends with a boy called Rufus Mayflower. They come up with an idea to make toothpaste because it is too expensive at stores. They buy a company and make toothpaste with the mechanic, Hector. In the end, they make over a million daollars. Then, Rufus wants to make something else, so he gives the company to Hector.
May 04, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it
Story of a kid who becomes a millionaire by making his own toothpaste. It's a fun little story and does a good job teaching about economics. But the last few chapters really go awry—the mobster bomb hit was enough of a stretch, but telling it through one of the character's really bad screen plays was even worse. Docking the book an entire star for that one.
Kressel Housman
Like The Pushcart War, the more famous of this author's books, this is a children's book that tells the story of running a business. The characters and stories are interesting, and the book is definitely educational, but it's nowhere near as fun as The Pushcart War .
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“My father always says one thing leads to another. It certainly does. I started out to buy a friend a birthday present, and I end up trying to get a factory to go with it....” 7 likes
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