The Toothpaste Millionaire
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The Toothpaste Millionaire

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  674 ratings  ·  87 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 September 4th 2006 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1972)
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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...more
Melissa Proffitt
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
Tony Bradshaw
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...more
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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!
May 17, 2013 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Abigail Larsen
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
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...more
Mary Mckelvin
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
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
Amy C
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
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
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 --...more
This book was a delight, delight, delight. It was a pleasure to read--filled with subtle commentary on race and adversity, with the themes being ultimately about friendship and dreams. Gosh, if you put your mind to it, you can do anything!
I found this a pretty entertaining story demonstrating what kids are capable of. My students really liked the idea of being a millionaire, even though the main character apparently didn't haha. For me, the problem solving is part of what made the story fun, although I can see how it could be a stumbling block for some students. There is a group of somewhat confusing chapters towards the end where the narrator explains a run in with "Organized Crime" and some legal issues through her pretend movi...more
May 25, 2014 Amber rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Elizabeth
Recommended to Amber by: Jessica
Shelves: children-s-books
Really really loved this book. Perfect for a read aloud for early elementary or for strong readers to read on their own. Super fun plot line.
May 28, 2014 Heather added it
Shelves: gr-3-4, gr-4-5
Great 3rd/4th grade read with an entrepreneurial/math bent. Features some African American characters.
This was a good book. Not one of my favorites but still good. I wonder if I could do something like that...
This is a very good book. Way better then it sounds, it is also very educational. I highly recommend 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
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.
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.
I have been trying to remember this book's name for the longest! One of my favorite middle school reads!
Ahmad Hassan
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.
Olivia Votaw
Lots of good lessons here. However, I felt the author was constantly trying to stuff her morality on as many of her pet peeves from the 70s as possible. Her lack of finesse in this area detracted from her great story. It's not that I don't agree with equal rights for men and woman and people of all races. I just wish she wouldn't have used the story of Rufus as such a clumsy soapbox.
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 .
I wish I owned this book! This is about a boy that finds out that toothpaste is a whole bunch of money and decides to make his own. His friend even gets him toothpaste tubes at an auction. Her father says she made a gross mistake, but it ends up that they buy a toothpaste filling machine to go with it. I want stock in this company.
Jul 27, 2010 Fairbairn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Fairbairn by: my mother
This book is a family favorite! Every time I read this book (And I have many times), I am inspired to go on my own business adventures. Jean Merrill's writing is exceptional. Her characters are well developed, and the scenes she sets are thoroughly believable. Although this may be an easy read for some, it is definitely worth the time.
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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....” 6 likes
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