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The Pushcart War

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  3,604 Ratings  ·  370 Reviews

It’s a story of how regular people banded together and, armed with little more than their brains and good aim, defeated a mighty foe.

Not long ago the streets of New York City were smelly, smoggy, sooty, and loud. There were so many trucks making deliveries that it might take an hour for a car to travel a few bl
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 1st 1987 by Dell Yearling (first published 1964)
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Brian Yahn
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
The prose is cute in the Pushcart War and the cartoon-like characters even cuter, but overall this is a plot-driven story about a war between truckers and pushcart peddlers, and exactly like that sounds, it's not very interesting... especially to the children it's written for.

Almost everything that makes Animal Farm a masterpiece is noticeably absent here. It might be cute (at times), but it's almost never funny. The characters might be a little batty, but they're not written well enough to pull
Jun 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
One of my favorite books from childhood, it tells the story of a war in New York City in 1986 between the pushcarts and the trucks. It reads so realistically that I always thought it was true, and I always wanted to go down to Bleecker Street to take place in the annual reenactment.
Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"The Pushcart War started on the afternoon of March 15, 1986, when a truck ran down a pushcart belonging to a flower peddler."

So begins "The Pushcart War" by Jean Merrill, one of my favorite books when I was a child and one of the books that has endured as a favorite still today. A small, little-known book of a little over 200 pages, a book that can be read fairly easily in a single rainy afternoon, if one is so inclined.

"The Pushcart War" is the story of a "little" war on the streets of New Yor
Zane Jones
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gloriously funny. A delightful, hilarious, sometimes silly story that has my heart. I already want to read it again.
Jun 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-ya, fiction
A delightful book. As a kid, it's about little guys triumphing over big guys. As an adult, with a wink and a nod, you can actually see that it's unabashed, though relatively harmless, socialist propaganda. Read it anyway, and don't be a truck.
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious, smart, scathing, charming. Reminds me of the best kinds of books I loved as a kid, but I would have missed so many of the layers as a kid. It was by no means too late to pick it up now. (Courtesy of a good friend of mine, who did love it as a kid.)
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
This is an utterly charming, satirical look at capitalism, corruption, and city life - a book I love not only because of the nostalgia factor (I first read it in fifth grade) but because it is good. The plot and pacing are strong, the dialogue is tongue-in-cheek and hilarious, and the characterization is spot-on. I will forever be a proponent of the Large Object Theory of History. Along with, I think, every library and elementary school classroom, and hopefully every home. The Pushcart War is th ...more
Wendy Bousfield
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, dystopia
This deliciously droll YA book (1964) tells the mock-heroic story of a battle between pushcart owners and physically/politically/economically powerful trucking companies in a near-future (1976) dystopian New York City. In the present of the novel, gigantic trucks have become so numerous, and their drivers such bullies, that traffic has come to a virtual standstill. Not content with intimidating smaller vehicles, the evil CEO’s of the trucking companies (“The Three”) plot to eliminate pushcarts, ...more
Penny Peck
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-ya
When I read Jean Merrill’s obituary a few weeks ago, I immediately knew the title The Pushcart War even though I had never read it. The book was often requested by 3rd and 4th grade teachers to use as a classroom readaloud, and it was part of the curriculum in some of the local elementary schools. So I checked it out of the library to read it for myself.
After nearly 50 years in publication, The Pushcart War still resonates. It is an allegory about war, and set in New York City, about a fictiona
Sq.Hill Library
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Well, every male that saw me reading this book (okay, so just my husband and the guy at Coffee Tree...) kept on saying how it was their favorite book when they were in first grade. I think that is a bit ambitios about the reading level; I would put it at grades 2-4, but I can see the attraction. It's a "war" in NYC between the pushcarts and the truckers. The big weapon is a pea-shooter. I always feel like I have a more difficult time recommending books for boys (being that I never was one!)... t ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I read it long ago, and I think I may like it even more now. Loved the syntax (like reading a book version of Guys and Dolls). I also enjoyed how the story was told, like an anthropology study. My favorite part was the epilogue.

All my friends should read this. Rachel, I think you would like this.

The power to the people feel is appealing. This is a good accompaniment to the revolutionary zeal of Les Miserables.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was shocked to discover that one of my sister's all-time favorite books was one that I had never heard of! So I just sat myself down, ate it up, and was completely charmed. If there was any justice in the world, Cantaloupe Day would be a much bigger deal than Bloomsday.
Laura Cayouette
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The escalating street battle between the pushcart peddlers and the truckers in New York. A David and Goliath story for kids more interested in the battles they see around them than the ones with giants. One of my favorites from my youth.
Stacy LeVine
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A childhood favorite of mine (and of every other child who ever read it). So much love for the smarts therein demonstrated!
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is such a fun book to revisit after many years.
Susan Mortimer
Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely everyone
Shelves: lis-565
This fabulous book is the story of the struggle of the pushcart vendors of New York City as they launch a war to retain their rights to exist among the ever-increasingly crowded and competitive streets of their city. The pushcart vendors have to compete against taxis, cars and pedestrians for space, but what they really have to worry about are the trucks. The trucks are getting bigger over time, and their operators are getting greedier for a larger slice of the increasingly scarce commodity of s ...more
Whhhaaattt? How did I miss this book growing up? Was I too busy reading my Nancy Drew mysteries? I would have loved this book as a child. I loved this book as an adult. And that's why I put it on both my "absolute best books I have ever read" shelf and my "absolute best kids books I have ever read" shelf. Even though it doesn't "star" any children, the theme is a universal one--the little guy up against the big guy. Kids will get it from a bullying perspective; adults will get it from a David vs ...more
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Current bedtime read with Kristen.

It had been so long since I read this that I thought it was a short picture book! I'd completely forgotten that it's a fairly lengthy chapter book. Silly me.

UPDATE: This left me feeling much flatter than I thought it would. I had such a strong recollection of enjoying this as a kid, and yet I'm sitting here now scratching my head, wondering whether I've changed so much, or whether there is an abridged version that was actually what I read as a child. It just doe
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Exceedingly clever and entertaining! I can't believe I missed this one when I was a kid, and I can't wait until my own kids are old enough for it.

Things I liked:
- Portrayal of government and big business colluding to disfavor small business
- Immigrant and small business voices
- 'Documentary-style' storytelling from multiple angles

Things I didn't like:
- There were quite a few plot holes, of the type where people think they have only one option but are ignoring multiple other options that might h
Ashley A.
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The pushcarts are tired of the trucks blocking traffic and blaming it on them. The big trucks are also purposely running into the pushcarts, so the pushcarts declare war on the trucks. Who is winning the war goes back and forth between the trucks and the pushcarts.- I enjoyed the book The Pushcart War. One thing I enjoyed was how the author built suspense by making the story go back and forth between the pushcarts and trucks. I also liked how the author really hooked me in. I think that overall ...more
Monica Edinger
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
May 2013 am rereading for first time on years. So far it is as wonderful as I recall.

Having just heard of Jean Merrill's death I wanted to honor her memory by adding this book to my goodreads bookshelf. It was one of my absolute favorite books to teach for many many years. I did a play and movie of it. Unfortunately, the movie was video and I don't even know if I still have the tape, but it was incredibly fun to do. I need to revisit this one.p
This "fable of the future" was first published in 1964, and while I enjoyed reading it as a child, I find that, as an adult, I like it even better. I now recognize how much craft Jean Merrill put into her tale of underdog peddlers trying to keep from being pushed aside by huge trucks in New York City.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Drop what you are doing and read this book. I know it is targeted for teens/youth but as an adult (who may be a tad cynical) it was hilarious. Government, big business, little business, law enforcement, the newspapers, ... they are all here. I haven't laughed this much with a book since Politically Incorrect Bedtime Stories.
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it
With the earnest silliness of James Thurber, this book explores the often ridiculous events that lead to war, the ideas of peaceful protest, political ties that compromise the public trust and the value of even the action of children in affecting change. It would be a good book for middle school/junior high to provide context to an exploration of the causes of WWI, or Vietnam or even Iraq.
Kressel Housman
Sep 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: kids and adults
This is a hilarious, action-packed novel about how a group of small business owners (the pushcarts) take on their gigantic competitors (the trucks). It's a children's classic that adults will also love. So don't be a truck! Read this book. You'll have a great time.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-lit
As my friend Helen, the book-lover, lay in her death bed, she asked her mother to read her this book. After she passed, I decided to read it to my son (who is 10). It is truly brilliant. Sharp and funny commentary on politics and power, in an easy-to-access package.
Rick Stuckwisch
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another of my all-time favorite childhood classics. Had a great time reading it aloud to my seven- and nine-year-olds, and they both loved it, too.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: grade school kids
Possibly the most political book I read as a kid. It deals with grass-roots organizing, guerilla warfare, corruption, capitalism, the media--all as part of a rollicking adventure story.
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book as a child!!!!!.... It has been at least more than a decade... & I still remember the pea shooters... <3 Nostalgia!!!!!....
Nikki Morse
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, parenting
This is an incredible book, for kids and parents alike. There's tremendous humor and absurdity, along with the most accessible introduction to organizing and resistance I've ever seen.
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The Pushcart War 1 5 Jun 10, 2015 10:04AM  
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Jean Fairbanks Merrill.

“Carlos was known to the pushcart peddlers as the most skillful carton-flattener in the Lower East Side section of New York City. Carlos' business was to go around to small stores that had clean cardboard cartons which they wished to be rid of. With two or three deft motions, Carlos would flatten the cartons and carefully stack them on his pushcart. Carlos was the only flattener in the business who could stack to a height of twelve feet without the cartons slipping off.” 2 likes
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