Greg Kenton has two obsessions making money and his long-standing competition with his annoying neighbor, Maura Shaw. So when Greg discovers that Maura is cutting into his booming Chunky Comics business with her own original illustrated minibooks, he's ready to declare war.
The problem is, Greg has to admit that Maura's books are good, and soon the longtime enemies become unlikely business partners. But their budding partnership is threatened when the principal bans the sale of their comics in school. Suddenly, the two former rivals find themselves united against an adversary tougher than they ever were to each other. Will their enterprise and their friendship prevail?
About the Author
Brian Selznick is the author and illustrator of the bestselling The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal and was a National Book Award finalist. He is also the illustrator of many books for children, including Frindle and Lunch Money by Andrew Clements, as well as the Doll Peoplefitrilogy by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, and The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, which was a Caldecott Honor Book. Mr. Selznick divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and San Diego, California.
Read an Excerpt
It was near the end of his fifth-grade year. Around eleven thirty one morning during silent reading Greg felt hungry, so he had started to think about his lunch: a ham-and-cheese sandwich, a bag of nacho cheese Doritos, a bunch of red grapes, and an apple-cherry juice box.
His mom had made him a bag lunch, which was fine with Greg. Making a lunch was a lot cheaper than buying one, and Greg loved saving money whenever possible. Plus home food was usually better than school food. And on days he brought a bag lunch his mom also gave him fifty cents to buy dessert. Which was also fine with Greg. Sometimes he bought a treat, and sometimes he held on to the money. On this particular day he had been planning to spend both quarters on an ice-cream sandwich.
Then Greg remembered where his lunch was: at home on the kitchen counter. He did have a dollar of his own money in his wallet, and he had two quarters from his mom in his front pocket, but a whole school lunch cost two bucks. He needed two more quarters.
So Greg had walked to the front of the classroom, waited until his teacher looked up from her book, and then said, "Mrs. McCormick, I left my lunch at home. May I borrow fifty cents?"
Mrs. McCormick had not missed a teaching opportunity in over twenty years. So she shook her head, and in a voice loud enough for the whole class to hear, she said, "I'm sorry, but no, I will not lend you money. Do you know what would happen if I handed out fifty cents to all the boys and girls who forgot their lunches? I'd go broke, that's what. You need to learn to remember these things for yourself."
Then, turning to the class, Mrs. McCormick had announced, "Greg needs some lunch money. Can someone lend him fifty cents?"
Over half of the kids in the class raised a hand.
Embarrassed, Greg had hurried over to Brian Lemont, and Brian handed him two quarters.
"Thanks," Greg said. "Pay you back tomorrow."
Ten minutes later Greg was in the cafeteria line, shaking all four quarters around in his pocket. They made a nice clinking sound, and that had reminded Greg how much he liked quarters. Stack up four, and you've got a dollar. Stack up twenty quarters, and that's five dollars. Greg remembered one day when he had piled up all his quarters on his dresser four stacks, and each had been over a foot tall. Stacking up quarters like that always made Greg feel rich.
So on that day in April of his fifth-grade year, Greg had started looking around the cafeteria, and everywhere he looked, he saw quarters. He saw kids trading quarters for ice-cream sandwiches and cupcakes and cookies at the dessert table. He saw kids over at the school store trading quarters for neon pens and sparkly pencils, and for little decorations like rubber soccer balls and plastic butterflies to stick onto the ends of those new pencils. He saw Albert Hobart drop three quarters into a machine so he could have a cold can of juice with his lunch. Kids were buying extra food, fancy pens and pencils, special drinks and snacks. There were quarters all over the place, buckets of them.
And then Greg remembered those hands that had been raised back in his classroom, all those kids who'd had a couple of quarters to lend him extra quarters.
Excited, Greg had started making some calculations in his head another one his talents. There were about 450 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders at Ashworth Intermediate School. If even half of those kids had two extra quarters to spend every day, then there had to be at least four hundred quarters floating around the school. That was a hundred dollars a day, over five hundred dollars each week money, extra money, just jingling around in pockets and lunch bags!
At that moment Greg's view of school changed completely and forever. School had suddenly become the most interesting place on the planet. Because young Greg Kenton had decided that school would be an excellent place to make his fortune.
Text copyright 2005 by Andrew Clements
Illustrations copyright 2005 by Brian Selznick
Reading Group Guide
What is Greg's greatest talent? How does he earn money? Do you like to earn money? How do you earn money? What do you do with your money?
In Chapter 2, what discovery does Greg make about quarters? What happens when he tries to sell candy and toys at school? Is Principal Davenport correct in her actions? Explain your answer.
What does Greg sell at the beginning of sixth grade? Describe how he learned to create this product over the summer. Would you have been willing to work so hard to make something to sell? What does this tell you about Greg?
What competition do Chunky Comics face? Who creates the competition? Describe the relationship between these characters in the first half of the novel.
What does Mr. Z like about numbers? What happens when he sees Maura give Greg a bloody nose? How does Mr. Z feel about Greg's situation? What role does math play in his analysis?
When they finally have a serious discussion about comics, what does Greg realize about Maura? What does Maura realize about Greg? How does Mr. Z analyze Greg's claim that Maura "stole" his idea? What happens when the two sixth graders begin to work together?
How did Mr. Z choose his job? What do Mr. Z's comments about wealth and careers make Greg wonder about his get-rich goal?
Why does Mrs. Davenport call comic books "practically toys, and bad toys at that"? Is she correct to extend her selling ban to comic books?
Why is Chapter 16 entitled "Art and Money"? Compare and contrast Maura's goal in creating comic books with Greg's. Which character thinks most like you?
What do Maura and Greg realize about things being sold at school? What case do they make to the school committee? What is Mrs. Davenport's opposing argument?
How is the Chunky Comics problem resolved at Ashworth Intermediate? Is this a good solution? Would you participate in such a venture at your school? What might you call your store or website? What ideas might you bring to the project?
Is getting rich a primary goal for you? Why or why not? What future goals are important to you? If you had a lot of money, how would you choose to spend it?
Activities and Research
At the library or online, find several definitions for money. Individually, or with friends or classmates, make a list of synonyms for, words related to, and phrases incorporating the word "money." Are your lists long or short? Were they difficult to brainstorm, or quick and easy? Why do you think this is the case?
Review the moments in the story where Greg and Maura compete to make money. Have you ever been in a similar contest? What was the result? Write a short story in which you find yourself up against another kid in a money-making venture.
Make your own comic book. In addition to the information provided in the novel, consult Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud or So, You Wanna Be a Comic Book Artist? by Philip Amara. Share your comic with family members or friends.
Study selling. Individually or in groups, list corporate logos, promotions, and other types of selling you see at school. Note the number of commercials in an hour of television. Keep a journal of corporate sales efforts at your local library, on sports fields, or elsewhere in your community. Display your observations on an informative poster. Discuss or write about how all this selling makes you feel. Is it okay with you? Why or not? How might things change for the better?
Imagine Greg and Maura have asked for your help with their school committee presentation. Use PowerPoint or another computer program to create a presentation based on the arguments made in the novel, adding suggestions and ideas of your own. Give your presentation to friends or classmates.
Assign roles of school committee members, administrators, and parents to your classmates or friends. Then improvise the conversation after Greg and Maura have left the school committee meeting. What points do members feel the kids made? Why do comic sales still pose a school problem? What about future sales proposals from other kids or schools? How do parents feel about this dilemma? How can a principal keep money-making from getting out of hand? Based on your improvisation, write an additional chapter to add to Lunch Money.
Imagine you are Greg or Maura near the end of the story. In the character of Greg, write a journal entry about your changing attitudes toward making money. Or, in the character of Maura, write a journal entry about your changing reasons for making comics.
Write a newspaper article about the success of Chunky Comics two years later. What has happened to Greg and Maura? How have their dreams changed? Upon what new adventures have they embarked?
Do you have a great idea for something to make and sell? Write a plan, including a sketch of your product, its name, and how you will sell it. What will your product cost to make, for how much will you sell it, and what profit do you hope to earn? What will you do with your earnings?