Review of: The Toothpaste Millionaire

I’m always on the look out for books to use in my Grandma Rie’s Money Camp and this one fits the bill. Now that my oldest grandchild is double digits in age, the little picture books I’ve been using aren’t quite so interesting to him.

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill is perfect for my tween!


This short book (my copy from the library has 119 pages of story) is about a 6th grade boy and girl who join forces to make and sell toothpaste. In the story, they end up millionaires by the 8th grade. Along the way they demonstrate ingenuity, empathy, intelligence and more. The reader takes a fast paced journey from idea to invention through marketing, fund raising, company formation and mass production to the awful land of rules and regulations and then back again to idea generation.

What I liked.

Merrill takes the reader through a quite believeable sequence of happenings that result in the kids business success. She does this in short, easily read chapters, perfect for a grade school level read.

She begins simply, with the idea that toothpaste can be made at home and shows the inspiration of the idea stemming from Rufus’s Grandmother Mayflower. At each step in the process she weaves in themes like sexism, racism, age discrimination, entrepreneurship, friendship, finance and math.

There are actually questions in the back of the book to help me start discussions. One of them is:

“Starting a business is a difficult thing to do. What are some of the obstacles Rufus encountered in his efforts? What do you think made Rufus so successful?”

What I wished for.

Really my only wish was that the author hadn’t passed away in 2012, as I would have loved the chance to learn from her.

Favorite quotes.

“The trouble with adults is that they never believe kids can do something even when they have good ideas”. p 77

“In case you’re not crazy about math, maybe I’d better explain about some of the toothpaste problems we worked on in class. As I mentioned before, math isn’t my favorite subject. But I think everybody should take a course in toothpaste”. p85 – on explaining that their math teacher used the business as a basis for teaching math.

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