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The Year Money Grew on Trees
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
ISBN-10: 0547279779

Cover Illustrator: Peter Ferguson

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A 2010 - 2011 Junior Library Guild Selection

"The Year Money Grew on Trees yields a harvest of riches, not only as a wonderful story of one boy's resourcefulness but as a humorous and insightful portrait of a community.  Take a bite!" - BookPage (TOP PICK)

"Jackson tells his own story, at once trusting and skeptical, optimistic and despairing. Hawkins has created an enormously appealing character and an engaging plot. . . Surprising and absorbing." - Kirkus Reviews

"Set in New Mexico in the early 1980s, Hawkins’s children’s book debut is rich with details that feel drawn from memory (an engineering professor who worked on his family’s orchard as a child, Hawkins also contributes schematic line drawings), and Jackson’s narration sparkles. His hard work, setbacks, and motivations make this a highly relatable adventure in entrepreneurship." - Publisher's Weekly

"Between the math, the growing, and the people skills, this is a unique book, and one where readers will learn something right along with Jackson." - Booklist

Summary

From the book cover: Jackson Jones is surrounded by 300 wild apple trees and he needs to make them grow apples -- thousands and thousands of them.  He convinces his sisters and cousins to help, but what do they know about pruning, irrigating or fertilizing?   How can a group of kids fight killer frost and apple loving insects?  And even assuming they can make the apples grow, how can they pick and sell enough of them in time?

With frostbitten fingers, stinking shoes, sunburns, and sore muscles, Jackson and his young crew unexpectantly discover the lost art of winging it -- and have a year they will never forget. 

With maps and spot illustrations of mechanical equipment and irrigation systems, and mathematical calculations of the great amount of money to be earned, this debut middle-grade novel evokes the adventure and can-do spirit from a time when parents allowed kids to figure things out for themselves. 


New Mexico Setting

New Mexico MapShiprockYuccaThe book is set in northwestern New Mexico, between the towns of Shiprock and Farmington - near the famous Four Corners Monument, the only place in the United States where four states meet.  This is an arid part of the country filled with plateaus.  There are large deposits of coal and natural gas buried underground.  Getting anything to grow requires pulling water from the San Juan River, which forms a snaking green line through the region.

People living in this area tend to build their homes close to the river and it remains pretty rural.  The area is home to many Native Americans because the Navajo Indian Reservation borders the San Juan River.


1980s Time Period

The story takes place in 1983, not that long ago, but life was pretty different.  Computers, the internet, and cell phones were years away.  If you needed information, you had to go to a library or an encyclopedia.  1983 was a huge year for music with the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller album and the growing popularity of MTV - when they were still playing music videos.  Specific songs that were popular and mentioned in the book are Billie Jean, Beat It, We've Got Tonight, Come on Eileen, and Little Red Corvette.

Network television shows were also very important to most kids during that time.  Some of those that were especially popular and cited in the book were The A-Team, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Love Boat.

Money comes up a lot in the book and provides a way for the characters to track their progress when picking and selling apples.  Earning $8000 is one very important goal, which seems like a lot for the group of kids involved.  In 1983, that kind of money could buy way more than it would today.  The equivalent in 2010 money would be $17,200.

Vehicles

TractorBarracudaThe different vehicles used throughout the book play very important roles.  Most significant is the tractor that allows the characters to haul things around and get to the supply store.  The tractor drawn on the book's cover and on the interior pages is modeled after the Ford Model N - a very famous tractor that was produced for decades.

Other notable vehicles include Mrs. Nelson's Caprice Classic, the station wagon used for selling apples, and Jackson's dad's 1964 Plymouth Barracuda.  The Barracuda was a strange looking car with a huge rear window.

Raising Apples

BlossomsCanalSiphonThe central activity in the book is, of course, raising apples.  Apple trees naturally produce apples, but humans can do many things to help.  The characters in the story have to discover these things as the year goes along and the weather changes.

While the temperatures is still cold, most trees could use some pruning and fertilizing to stimulate them.  If the weather is right, a big display of spring blossoms will be transformed into tiny little apples.

LadybugLadderIn New Mexico, apple trees need lots of water, which means irrigating every few days.  This is usually done using ditches and canals.  Sometimes siphoning pipes are used - as explained in the book.

One of the worst jobs when raising apples is spraying them with poison to keep away worms and insects.  The pesticides can make you feel queasy, but without them, a lot of the crop gets infested.  Natural methods for preventing pests, like relying on ladybugs, are appealing, but ladybugs can be hard to control and predict.

Golden DeliciousRoman BeautyPicking apples is the most labor intensive part of the process.  A large percentage of the apples are high on the trees and require ladders to reach them.  Apples are usually put in bushel boxes which can hold about 100 apples.  In the story, Jackson and his sisters and cousins need to pick about 100,000 apples.

Most supermarkets sell many varieties of apples with different tastes and textures.  In the book, Jackson's orchard produces both Golden Delicious (a very soft, sweet apple) and Roman Beauties (a firm and tart apple).

Characters

CousinsSisterMuch of the book's setting was based on the author's childhood experiences and many of the characters are based on relatives and people he knew.  At its heart, the story is really about family relationships.  Jackson and his sisters and cousins go through a challenge that binds them together.  Those kinds of links only happen with shared goals and shared struggles.





Illustrations
The book contains 17 line drawings made by the author - despite his limited artistic skills.  These illustrations were the idea of the book's editor, Ann Rider.  Most of them were done by first laying out the drawing in a computer CAD program and then tracing lines. The two figures below show an example of this technique.  The top one was created with the program VISIO and the bottom one is the hand traced drawing that appears in the book.Computer Illustration

Canal Drawing

There were some drawings that were made that didn't eventually get used in the book.  Below is one example.  It is supposed to illustrate what $8000 would look like in different forms of currency.  This was the amount of money the characters in the book were trying to earn, and in the end, they have to sort through lots of coins and bills of every kind.

 Money Drawing

Apple and Money Math
Here are some questions to challenge your mathematical skills and teach you a little about raising apples and money.  To see if your responses are correct, you must enable scripts on your browser.

If there are 100 apples in a bushel, and a bushel weighs 40 pounds, how much do 25 apples weigh?
10 pounds
12 pounds
15 pounds
20 pounds

Correct
Wrong
 
If an apple tree needs 4 gallons of water per day, how much total water will it need for 90 days of summer?
22.5 gallons
360 gallons
720 gallons
3600 gallons

Correct
Wrong
 
Given how much water one apple tree needs in the summer (see above question), how much water would a 300 tree orchard need?
10,800 gallons
54,000 gallons
108,000 gallons
1,080,000 gallons

Correct
Wrong
 
An Olympic sized swimming pool holds 660,000 gallons.  If you drained a pool, how many 300 tree orchards could you water for a summer?
6
12
45
2,200

Correct
Wrong
 
If one person can pick 200 apples in one hour, how long will it take 2 people to pick 100,000 apples?
12.5 hours
25 hours
125 hours
250 hours

Correct
Wrong
 
If 100,000 apples were sold for $10,000, how much was each apple worth?
1 cent
5 cents
10 cents
A quarter

Correct
Wrong

News, Reviews, Awards

"Set in New Mexico in the early 1980s, Hawkins’s children’s book debut is rich with details that feel drawn from memory (an engineering professor who worked on his family’s orchard as a child, Hawkins also contributes schematic line drawings), and Jackson’s narration sparkles. His hard work, setbacks, and motivations make this a highly relatable adventure in entrepreneurship." - Publisher's Weekly

"Between the math, the growing, and the people skills, this is a unique book, and one where readers will learn something right along with Jackson." - Booklist

"The Year Money Grew on Trees yields a harvest of riches, not only as a wonderful story of one boy's resourcefulness but as a humorous and insightful portrait of a community.  Take a bite!" - BookPage (TOP PICK)

"Jackson tells his own story, at once trusting and skeptical, optimistic and despairing. Hawkins has created an enormously appealing character and an engaging plot. . . Surprising and absorbing." - Kirkus Reviews

The Year Money Grew on Trees chosen as a Junior Library Guild selection for 2010-11

Release date set for The Year Money Grew on Trees - September 6, 2010

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Summary

New Mexico Setting

1980s Time Period

Vehicles

Raising Apples

Characters

Illustrations

Apple and Money Math

News, Reviews, Awards

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