The Pushcart War.
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
The Pushcart War tells the story of a fight between the New York City trucking companies and the 509 pushcart peddlers. The author, Jean Merrill, skillfully creates a humorous tale of pea-tacks and peashooters, shorthand notes of a meeting between three kidnappers, a famous actress and a frustrated mayor and many more intriguing characters.
Merrill states in the introduction that everyone needs to understand how a war begins if there is to be peace on Earth. This work is her humorous attempt to fulfill that need. The streets of New York City are much too crowded, according to all the citizens. The trucking companies try blaming it on the pushcarts. The pushcart peddlers try to make the people understand that it is really the much-too-large and too-numerous trucks that cause all the confusion in the streets. The truck drivers start tipping over pushcarts, destroying them and injuring the peddlers. This demonstrates how a war can begin with bullying. And then, it escalates ...
The peddlers, extremely annoyed, set up headquarters in Maxie Hammerman's shop, where he, the Pushcart King, constructs and repairs all the pushcarts in the city. An elderly vendor of fruit known as Old Anna becomes General Anna as she leads the pushcart owners into the "war." Peas attached to pins form their ammunition, which they use to flatten tires in many of the trucks. War has now officially begun.
After a peddler is arrested, the children of New York, sympathetic to the pushcart peddlers, take up the cause, deflating many more tires. The heads of the three major trucking companies try to kidnap Maxie Hammerman, but he foils their plot. Eventually, after conflict drags the people of the city into the fight, the peddlers and truckers come to a truce. The trucking companies take many trucks--and all of the very large trucks--out of commission. In return, the peddlers leave them alone.
Kids like things to be presented in a humorous way, but war is no joking matter. The Pushcart War is amazing because it shows how a war works--without the grotesque death and bloodshed of a real war. The book is subtle; on the surface, it is a humorous tale, but underneath lies a much larger, more meaningful message: That small disagreements, if not dealt with in a peaceful manner early, can escalate into large, out-of-hand conflicts. I recommend this book for people of all ages, as there is something to be learned by all.
Age: 12, Grade: 7, Cooperstown, NY