“Whatever Happened To Penny Candy” Book Review

economics book for children

When I was a child, a pack of baseball cards only cost a nickel and gas was 80 cents a gallon.  Have you heard that line before?  Why has the price of everything increased with every generation?   If you are looking for the answer to that last question the next your child asks you, I suggest you read this one book.  In fact, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury, is a book you & your child can read together and learn the answer together!  This economics book for children will make learning about economics enjoyable & easy-to-understand.

About The Book

  • Book Name: Whatever Happened To Penny Candy?
  • Author: Richard J. Maybury
  • Pages: 168 pages
  • Price: $14.95 on Amazon for the November 1, 2015 publishing (7th edition), although previous editions are much cheaper.
  • Subject: Economics For Children
    • Part of the “Unlce Eric” Series
  • Suggested Age To Start Reading: 12 years old+
  • Recommended: YES

Who Is Uncle Eric?

Before I delve into what Penny Candy is about, I want to explain the background & author prose of the book.  Penny Candy (I call it this for short) is part of an 11-book series often called “the Uncle Eric books” that are all authored by Richard J. Maybury.

This series has been termed “Uncle Eric” because each chapter is written by Uncle Eric to his nephew Chris.  Every chapter is like reading a personal letter rather than reading a PHD dissertation that makes you fall asleep.  The “Uncle Eric” curriculum was even awarded first place in the Government category of Mary Pride’s Practical Homeschooling 2015 Reader’s Awards.

My wife and I (we are children at heart) have enjoyed reading all these books, as each letter is normally a couple pages long and simply make you want to turn the page and read the next letter.  We are both college educated, but we both learned (or remembered) the various lessons that are written so simply that a grade school child can understand.

We plan to have our children read these books when they reach that golden age & can grasp the concepts of economics and money management.

Another underlying tenet of this series is the concept of natural law (aka “Common Law”) and two principles that you will see mentioned in every book:

  1. Do All You Have Agreed To Do (Basis of Contract Law)
  2. Do Not Encroach On Others  Or Their Property (Basis of Tort Law and some Criminal Law)

What Penny Candy Teaches

Penny Candy is 168 pages so it is a concise and short read on economics that is broken down into 15 letters and some “Further Reading.”                                                                                              economics book for children

Uncle Eric begins writes to Chris about the following topics:

  • History of Money & Currency
  • What is Inflation
  • History of Inflation
  • How Inflation Is Present Today (The Roaring 90’s, for example)
  • Wages, Prices, Spirals, and Controls
  • The Boom and Bust Cycle
  • Federal Debt & Why Governments Spend Money
  • Why Federal Debt Is Bad
  • What Happened In 2008
  • Summary of The Topics Covered
    • (“Cliff Notes” version at what was covered in each of the letters)
  • Where Do We Go From Here
  • Beyond The Basics
    • This is the Further Reading section that delves into more detail on economics such as excerpts from historical documents, graphs and charts for visual reference, and mathematical formulas to calculate rate of inflation, return on investment, etc.

The above list is a brief summary of the topics covered.  For a more complete list, please visit the publisher’s website.

Older versions have the same core content, but lack some new information.  For example, the book my wife & I have is from 2005 (5th edition) so it doesn’t contain any information on the 2008 “Great Recession.”

I should also note that this book is written from “Austrian” & “Monetarist” economic points-of-view. You can call it “laissez-faire” or limited government economics.   If you have heard of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman, they respectively belong to the Austrian and Monetarist groups.   They are the opposite of the “Keynesian” economics group that primarily believes government should emphasize economic policy (i.e. FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression).

What I Have Learned From Penny Candy  economics book for children

I like learning about economics and find it to be a fascinating topic.  This book is an easy-to-understand version of Macroeconomics.  For those that think that is a daunting word, that means “big picture” economics that you read or hear about in the news.  For example: inflation, deflation, government spending.

I enjoyed the history lessons of money and currency.  Something I had not learned about in college and helped me understand the basis of coins and legal tender.  You may consider knowing why a penny has smooth edges & a quarter has grooved edges as useless trivia (Hint: The Romans used this practice to preventing counterfitting & currency debasement), but  it is good knowledge to have and helps you better understand the laws of economics & currency.

Unlike the academic setting where I took my basic economics courses, this book is fun and still educational.  You learn real-life examples of what deflation or a recession is compared to just the dictionary definition.  You won’t necessarily learn what the “Laffer Curve” is or about the nitty-gritty of derivatives, but that isn’t the intent of this book.

What I enjoy is this book is an easy read that helps can serve as a refresher for those Econ classes you slept through and the real-life examples that are provided and not just economic theory.

Obviously Penny Candy is intended for children that are middle-school or high-school age and understand there is more to money than simply putting it in a piggy bank and exchanging it for something you want at the store, when you have saved enough.

Will You Find Out What Happened To Penny Candy?

After reading this review, I hope you will find out why a gumball costs a quarter now to get out of the machine now.  Or why quarters have reeded (grooved) edges and pennies do not.

I can pretty guarantee that you will enjoy this and the other “Uncle Eric” books & your family will not want to put them down.

Obviously Penny Candy is intended for children that are middle-school or high-school age and understand there is more to money than simply putting it in a piggy bank and exchanging it for something you want at the store, when you have saved enough.  But everybody can learn something from it.

You might be amazed when your child will understand & have a conversation with you about inflation or the latest economic news at the dinner table!

Have You Found Out What Happened To Penny Candy?  Or Read Any Of Uncle Eric’s other letters?

Thanks For Reading,

Josh

4 Comments on "“Whatever Happened To Penny Candy” Book Review"

  1. Sounds like an awesome book!
    I’ve never read it, but have a lot of interest in those type of topics. I will definitely check this one out and give it to my kids to read.
    Money and currency changes is something that I personally would like to know more about.
    Thanks for the thorough review on this – my online library just expanded because of this. 😀
    Will be getting back to this site

    • Thanks. It’s a very informative series & some of the other books look back at the history of Rome, our Founding Fathers & why they made the U.S. Constitution the way they did just to name a couple of the other topics. Your site is great too & I’ve bookmarked it and my wife & will be be visiting again!

  2. This book sounds really awesome and has piqued my interest after reading your review.
    Sounds like a great refresher course for Econ 101. I like the quirky way of presenting the information as letters to nephew.
    How far back in history does the author go back to illustrate inflation? 1920s?
    Do the ‘letters’ have any illustration? For me personally, pictures help me retain and understand the concepts better.

    • Thanks for the feedback and these books are a fun series to read. He touches on inflation from the 1920’s in the U.S. & compares its similarity to the 1990’s that lead up to the “.com bubble.” While on the topic of the 1920’s, he also brings up the example of the German Wiemar Republic with their crazy inflation & how you needed a wheelbarrow to buy a loaf of bread. He also briefly mentions other cases of inflation, such as “Tulip Mania” in the Netherlands from several centuries ago.

      Regarding illustrations, some of the letters have graphs or a drawing to help illustrate his topic. Most of the letters are quick-reads so a teenager can understand the concepts & I think the learning can be reinforced with an adult providing more details.

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