Like the Andrew Clements’ classic Frindle, Lunch Money is a school story. Students love being placed in their own world – the world of peers and teachers and parents. And kids believe it when those students are not always nice to each other. A little bickering realism makes kids trust the author and become more invested in his story. Andrew Clements always moves things briskly. His characters are wise and enterprising, sweet and vulnerable.
In Lunch Money, we meet Greg Kenton, serial entrepreneur. Everything is going his way, until he meets his match in his neighbor, Maura Shaw. She seems to have stolen Greg’s latest money-making idea – writing, illustrating, printing, and selling original comic books.
Greg and Maura compete for sales with dueling comic books, inviting your students to learn about creating and marketing a new product with innovation and competition. It is all good fun until Mrs. Davenport, the principal, discovers the comic book market.
I know perfectly well what you are selling. This is a comic book, and in my view, comic books are practically toys, and bad toys at that. This is hardly what I would call a book.
Your students are certain to have their own ideas about that statement, and about Mrs. Davenport’s decision to shut down Greg and Maura’s businesses.
Clements never lets the story get too one-note – it isn’t just a kids-against-the-principal book. Greg and Maura get some valuable assistance from Mr. Z, the math teacher who desperately wants to avoid conflict but finds himself in the middle of everything. And Greg and Maura must manage their evolving relationship, moving from overt hostility to something more nuanced and interesting, something more like respectful friendship.
Ultimately, Lunch Money becomes a morality tale with some timely questions. What does it mean to be greedy? Is it bad or good to constantly scheme to make money? Should there be restrictions on students’ entrepreneurial projects? Is unfettered capitalism always best?
Clements writes clear, bright prose and dialogue, giving families and schools some big picture questions to think about long after the book ends, which makes Lunch Money a keeper. Your students may just cite the lessons they learned from reading and thinking about Lunch Money in high school and college and maybe with their own kids.