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Book Review: Cost Benefit Jr. Volume 1: How Free Markets Work


Reading Level

Ages 4-8

Also on This Subject

• Basic Economics

This book by Stephanie Herman is a wonderful illustration of how economics doesn't have to be all facts and figures, numbers and graphics, signifying confusion.

Part of what is projected to be a three-book series, this first volume is targeted at readers in grades 2-4; and since the majority of these students won't be reading by themselves anyway, the examples are clear-cut enough and the pictures plentiful enough that these students will stay interested.

In a nutshell, this wonderfully inventive book uses younger-reader characters and themes to explain basic and complex economics themes such as supply and demand, limited resources, budgeting, savings and consumption, hidden costs and making choices and such complex concepts as opportunity cost and cost-benefit analysis. (The latter concept is illustrated with examples involving owning a dog and opening a savings account.) All are effectively presented, with great thought put into not only the situations described but also the words and images used to describe the situations. The result is a rarity, a book that makes economics fun.

Highly interesting and, for the most part, effective are the presentation of "ethics-based" concepts such as friends-and-family economics—including the inclusion of loyalty to friends as a consideration when making an economic decision.

Also to be noted is the clever inclusion of savings and spendings concepts like exercise and calorie consumption.

The book doesn't fully deliver on its promise of defending capitalism in the face of criticism and competition; although the author does an admirable job of presenting the hallmarks of a market economy, she doesn't dig much deeper than that, which is just fine for readers this young. Still, teachers and/or parents reading such a promise, delivered in the introduction, might feel unsatisfied. Perhaps the promise is delivered on in the second and third books.

Overall, this book is a good, solid introduction to basic economics and is recommended highly to teachers and parents alike looking for new ways to present standard information.

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