When I was a child, a pack of baseball cards only cost a nickel and gas was 80 cents a gallon. Â
Have you heard that line before?
Why has the price of everything increased with every generation?Â Â If you are looking for the answer to that last question the next your child asks you, I suggest you read this one book.
In fact, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard J. Maybury, is a book you & your children can read together and learn the answer together.
This economics book for children will make learning about economics enjoyable & easy-to-understand.
Note: This original review is from 2015 but receives regular updates. I might receive a small kickback if you purchase this book through Amazon. If so, thank you for helping support this site.
About “Penny Candy”
- Book Name: Whatever Happened To Penny Candy?
- Author: Richard J. Maybury
- Pages: 168 pages
- Price: $14.23 on AmazonÂ (New) and from $8+ pre-owned
- Subject: Economics For Children
- Part of the “Uncle Eric” Series
- Suggested Age To Start Reading: 12 years old+
- Recommended:Â YES
Who Is Uncle Eric?
Before I delve into whatÂ Penny Candy is about, I want to explain the background & author prose of the book. Â Penny Candy (I call it this for short) is part of an 11-book series often called “the Uncle Eric books” that are all authored by Richard J. Maybury.
This series has been termed “Uncle Eric” because each chapter is written by Uncle Eric to his nephew Chris.
Every chapter is like reading a personal letter rather than reading a Ph.D. dissertation that makes you fall asleep. Â
The “Uncle Eric” curriculum was even awarded first place in the Government category of Mary Pride'sÂ Practical Homeschooling 2015 Reader's Awards.
This series has won other awards and is popular in the homeschooling world.
My wife and I (we are children at heart) enjoy reading all these books, as each letter is normallyÂ a couple pages long and simply make you want to turn the page and read the next letter.
We are both college-educated, but we both learned (or remembered) the various lessons that are written so simply that a grade school child can understand.
Another underlying tenet of this series is the concept of natural law (aka “Common Law”) and two principles that you will see mentioned in every book:
- Do All You Have Agreed To Do (Basis of Contract Law)
- Do Not Encroach On Others Â Or Their Property (Basis of Tort Law and some Criminal Law)
What Penny Candy Teaches
Penny Candy is 168 pages so it is a concise and short read on economics that is broken down into 15 letters and some “Further Reading.” Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Uncle Eric begins writing to Chris about the following topics:
- History of Money & Currency
- What is Inflation
- History of Inflation
- How Inflation Is Present Today (The Roaring 90's, for example)
- Wages, Prices, Spirals, and Controls
- The Boom and Bust Cycle
- Federal Debt & Why Governments Spend Money
- Why Federal Debt Is Bad
- What Happened In 2008
- Summary of The Topics Covered
- (“Cliff Notes” version at what was covered in each of the letters)
- Where Do We Go From Here
- Beyond The Basics
- This is the Further Reading section that delves into more detail on economics such as excerpts from historical documents, graphs and charts for visual reference, and mathematical formulas to calculate rate of inflation, return on investment, etc.
The above list is a brief summary of the topics covered. Â For a more complete list, please visit the publisher's website (Bluestocking Press).
Older versions have the same core content but lack some new information. Â For example, the book my wife & I have is from 2005 (5th edition) so it doesn't contain any information on the 2008 “Great Recession.”
However, if you get an older edition, you will still get the basic information and understand why living on $35,000 a year is harder now than 20 years ago.
I should also note that this book is written from “Austrian” & “Monetarist” economic points of view.
You can call it “laissez-faire” or limited government economics. Â If you have heard of Friedrich HayekÂ or Milton Friedman, they respectively belong to the Austrian and Monetarist groups.
They are the opposite of the “Keynesian” economics group that primarily believes government should emphasize economic policy (i.e. FDR's New Deal during the Great Depression).
What I Have Learned From Penny Candy Â
I like learning about economics and find it to be a fascinating topic.
This book is an easy-to-understand version of Macroeconomics and how governments and big banks impact our personal finances and global economy.
For those that think that is a daunting word, that means “big picture” economics that you read or hear about in the news.
For example: inflation, deflation, government spending.
Full of History Lessons
I enjoyed the history lessons on money and currency. Â Something I had not learned about in college and helped me understand the basis of coins and legal tender.
You may consider knowing why a penny has smooth edges & a quarter has grooved edges as useless trivia (Hint: The Romans used this practice to prevent counterfeiting & currency debasement), but it is good knowledge to have and helps you better understand the laws of economics & currency.
See Real-Life Examples
Unlike the academic setting where I took my basic economics courses, this book is fun and still educational.
You learn real-life examples of what deflation or a recession is compared to just the dictionary definition. Â You won't necessarily learn what the “Laffer Curve” is or about the nitty-gritty of derivatives, but that isn't the intent of this book.
What I enjoyÂ is this book is an easy read that helps can serve as a refresher for those Econ classes you slept through and the real-life examples that are provided and not just economic theory.
Obviously,Â Penny Candy is intended for children that are middle-school or high-school age and understand there is more to money than simply putting it in a piggy bank and exchanging it for something you want at the store, when you have saved enough.
However, this crash course in economics is a great refresher for adults. You can get a more in-depth view at how money works and some smart things to do with your money.
Will You Find Out What Happened To Penny Candy?
After reading this review, I hope you will find out why a gumball costs a quarter now to get out of the machine now. Â Or why quarters have reeded (grooved) edges and pennies do not.
I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this and the other “Uncle Eric” books & your family will not want to put them down.
WhileÂ Penny Candy is primarily for children that are middle-school or high-school age and understand there is more to money than simply putting it in a piggy bank and exchanging it for something you want at the store, when you have saved enough.
But everybody can learn something from it.
You might be amazed when your child will understand & have a conversation with you about inflation or the latest economic news at the dinner table!
Related:Â Best Money Books to Read
Have You Found Out What Happened To Penny Candy? Â Or Read Any Of Uncle Eric's other letters? Share your thoughts with a comment below
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.