The Pushcart War: Peanut Butter Is Progress

The Pushcart War was written by Jean Merrill. It was published in 1964 by Harper & Row.


The pushcarts have declared war! New York City’s streets are clogged with huge, rude trucks that park where they want, hold up traffic, and bulldoze into anything that is in their way, and the pushcart peddlers are determined to get rid of them. But the trucks are just as determined to get rid of the pushcarts, and chaos results in the city.

The pushcarts have come up with a brilliant strategy that will surely let the hot air out of their enemies. The secret weapon–a peashooter armed with a pin; the target–the vulnerable truck tires. Once the source of the flat tires is discovered, the children of the city joyfully join in with their own pin peashooters. The pushcarts have won one battle, but can they win the war against a corrupt mayor who taxes the pins and prohibits the sale of dried peas?


The best part of this book is the absolute seriousness that Merrill takes as he writes about the Pushcart War. The matter-of-fact tone just makes the events all that more hilarious. It’s written so seriously that, when I read it when I was younger, I had to clarify with my mother that this book was, in fact, fiction. Now that I’m older, I just chortle with every page.

The Peanut Butter speech, Frank the Flower’s confession, the awesomeness of Maxie Hammerman, the tax on peas…it’s just pure fun throughout. It’s also a sly wink at pollution and traffic, among other things.

I’m not sure how many people are aware of this book, but it really is great fun, and even though there’s not much character development and the plot is very expositional since it’s written as a historical summary, it’s still a childhood book that I remember fondly (and I probably enjoyed it even more now than I did back then).

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: Some guns and talk about shooting people.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s


“The Tacks Tax, as all students of American history know, was the most unpopular tax in the history of New York City. It caused revolution in the city schools and almost brought England into the war.

The citizens of New York protested at once that the tax was undemocratic. They said it discriminated unfairly against the users of tacks as opposed to the users of screws, nails, bolts, and pins.”

~Merrill 117

Overall Review:

The Pushcart War is a book that I wish more people were aware of, because it is so funny and so memorable. It’s about pushcarts taking down trucks with peapins! And a mayor who equates peanut butter with progress! And people dumping sacks of peas on people’s heads! And a truck conspiracy to take over the world!

You can buy this here: The Pushcart War

One thought on “The Pushcart War: Peanut Butter Is Progress

  1. Pingback: 1948 Newbery Medal: The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois | Leaf's Reviews

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