Friday, April 06, 2012

Paper or Plastic?: The Secret Life of Money: A Kid's Guide to Cash by Kira Vermond

What's the difference between consumption and consumerism?

You know the feeling. You're walking through the mall, minding your own business, and BAM! Out of the clear blue sky some wonderful whatchamacallit beckons. In no time flat, your nose is against the glass, you body feels all tingly-and you're dreaming about how much better your life would be if you just had that thing.

Most of us love money--having it, counting it,
exchanging it for stuff we want. Handling money is something else. Except for the fortuitous few who happily grow up to become financial advisers, the rest of us do a mental cringe when it comes to thinking about budgeting, saving, investing, using credit, and the whole financial planning thing. Next to The Talk, talking about money with kids one of the hardest jobs parents have, one that goes on virtually as long as the parent-child relationship lasts.

But unless we go back to a barter society (and nobody wants that), learning to deal with money maturely is essential to everyone's education. Kira Vermond's The Secret Life of Money: A Kid's Guide to Cash (Owlkids Books, 2012) takes a light-hearted but thorough look at the world of finance, from the piggybank to the World Bank. Vermond's breezy, kid-friendly text hits just the right comic note, abetted by clever cartoon illustrations by Clayton Hanmer, taking on all the salient areas of money, from both a personal and an international view.

Money. It's a lot like apple pie....

People and Pie:

If they get their hands on a pie, some people will polish the whole thing off.

Others will eat a tiny slice and save the rest for later.

Some feel guilty after they eat even one little slice of that luscious pie goodness.

Others demand more pie..even when they've had enough.

What is money, honey? A good example of the social contract, in which a chunk of something (anything from cowrie shells to printed paper) represents labor performed and value agreed upon ahead of the transaction. What's the downside of winning the lottery? Everybody wants to share the wealth! What's the upside and downside of plastic credit? A whole lot from both points of view. What is compound interest and how does it work for or against you? You'll be oh-so-sorry if you don't know!

Balancing needs and wants is at the heart of the role of money, and Vermond uses humor as her main weapon in overcoming resistance to money talk in a lively narrative that is actually fun to read. Sidebars, featured pull quotes, and salient illustrations appropriately executed in green, break up the text while actually extending understanding, as the author takes on the full spectrum of the financial world, from the history of money, to banking and stock trading, investing in your own talents, working for wages or for yourself, to the causes of poverty and the perils and rewards of investing and altruism. This slim little book makes informative reading even for the older and wiser, and as personal advice or as a guide to middle school units, it's right on the money.

"Casual yet comprehensive, this informative guide to money presents the basics behind earning, saving, and spending wisely, while providing a crash course in economics," adds Publishers Weekly.

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