The first thing I thought when I finished this book was - how clever to write a book with a strong moral message presented with such a light touch that you only consider the moral after reading. Then I read this decoloresreview and I saw some aspects of this story in a different way. I am now planning to read this book to a group of Grade 2 children here in Sydney. None have ever experienced poverty, I don't think they will notice the skin colours used by Noah Z Jones but I do wonder what they may think of the 'message'.
Ruben has no bike. All of his friends have bikes but Ruben's family are poor. We know this because when his Mom writes her grocery list we see her counting the money in her purse and then crossing things off her list.
For me this is not entirely a book about honesty it is also about 'walking in another person's shoes'. Ruben picks up a dollar in the grocery store that has been dropped by a regular customer. He decides to keep the money - it is only a dollar he thinks. But when he gets home he discovers it is not one dollar it is one hundred dollars. When you are exploring this book in Australia you would need to show the children US money. In Australia our notes are all different colours and of course we no longer have a one dollar note.
Ruben feels bad about the money and he also realises if he tries to spend it on that long desired bike serious questions will be asked. At the end of his first day with the money he checks his bag and discovers the money is gone.
"Rain is falling as I retrace my steps from school to bike shop to home.
Leaves and money look the same.
Rain and tears feel the same.
Ruben suffers through another long day at school. To add to his torment their math topic is money. Ruben checks his bag one more time and discovers it is still there in a small zip pocket. He heads over the grocery store to buy milk and juice for his mom and sees the lady who lost the money. "I remember how it was for me when that money that was hers - then mine - was gone."
Here is the Kirkus review. Here is an excellent trailer made by the publisher. Take a look here at some other picture books about owning a bicycle. My friend at Kinderbookswitheverything also has a terrific Pinterest collection on this topic.
With a group of older students I would read Mr Chickee's Funny Money for another perspective on finding money.