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It is unnecessary to urge young people to read more and understand the importance of reading because, given the chance... More

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Author: Jacqueline Davies

Illustrator: S.D. Schindler

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Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, ©2009

Material: hard cover

Summary: In 1790 a group of men set out to take a count for the first American census. The folks in the town of Tunbridge don’t want to be counted. But Phineas, the man sent to count the town, starts knocking on doors anyway. At first there is no one to count, because they don't answer the door. Then the townspeople think the government wants to give them money based on the number of people so they dress up anyone they can, even the animals. Once they realize the numbers will be used to determine taxes, they decide to tell the truth so they are represented correctly, This picture book describes the history and purpose of the census in a way that engages young children.

Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 9; read yourself: 8 to 12

Interest Level: 5 to 10

Age of Child: Read with 5-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: I picked this book because my daughter is enjoying her studies of colonial history. She laughed when the townspeople try to trick Phineas thinking he wants to give them money. She stopped and looked at every picture to see which animal was dressed liked a child. She also liked it when they realized they needed to tell him the truth,

Adult Reader Reaction: I enjoyed the silly story that went along with the complex issue of taxes. I liked that they made it easy to understand and a fun story to read. Children do not even realize they are learning when they read the story! I wasn’t sure she would understand the stories, and I was pleased that as we read how she asked the right questions and was able to pick up the answers in the text.

Pros: With humor and silliness that reach kids where they are, elementary students can learn about taxes and the purpose of the census.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a fun story to share at home and will be invaluable in the classroom or school library.


Educational Themes: There are several layers to this book. You've got the broader themes of colonial history, tax history, and how the census is used. On an individual level, you can talk about personal responsibility and consequences. You can build on the story by asking kids what happens to lots of people when just one person lies.

Notes: A Reading Tub volunteer submitted this review. S/He borrowed the book from the local library.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, government, social studies

Date(s) Reviewed: July 2009

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