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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2525

Lunch Money, a novel by Andrew Clements (2005), is a realistic story about an ordinary child making extraordinary achievements. The story illustrates how a hardworking boy can have as much effect on the world as any adult—even when adults try to stand in his way.

Someday Greg Kenton is...

(The entire section contains 2525 words.)

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Lunch Money, a novel by Andrew Clements (2005), is a realistic story about an ordinary child making extraordinary achievements. The story illustrates how a hardworking boy can have as much effect on the world as any adult—even when adults try to stand in his way.

Someday Greg Kenton is going to be rich. He has a talent for money, and he has worked hard at earning money since he was in preschool. First he makes money doing household chores and recycling. Later he branches out into several pursuits around his neighborhood, such as lawn mowing, snow shoveling, and dog walking. Greg loves just having money but he also likes spending it, once in a while, on special possessions.

Because Greg is so good with money, he acts as a banker for his family. He lends money to his parents for free as long as they pay it back. If his older brothers, Ross and Edward, want money, they have to return it with interest. The older boys make fun of Greg for this, but it does not stop them from using “the First Family Bank of Greg.”

Shortly after Greg finishes fourth grade, his dad finds some of Greg’s money hidden in a book. The two of them have a talk, and Greg agrees to put his money in the bank where it will be safe and grow by earning interest. When Greg adds up all his money, his dad is shocked to learn he has over three thousand dollars.

One day in fifth grade, Greg forgets his lunch. A school lunch costs two dollars, and Greg only has a dollar fifty with him. He asks his teacher, Mrs. McCormick, if he can borrow fifty cents. Mrs. McCormick says no, but she asks the class if anyone can lend Greg the money. More than half of the kids have two quarters to spare. After Greg borrows the fifty cents he needs, he goes to lunch thinking about how much he likes quarters. Then he realizes half the kids in his school seem to have a quarter or two to spare. He does the math in his head and concludes that hundreds of dollars of extra money come into his school every week.

The next day, Greg starts selling candy and gum. He makes good money, but he knows kids take it into their classrooms, which is against the rules. He does not want to get in trouble, so he switches to selling toys. With his mom’s permission, he uses her credit card to buy some toys on the Internet. He sells them quickly, then turns around and buys more. The second batch does not sell as fast because the kids get tired of the toys. Also, the principal tells Greg he cannot continue his business because his toys distract kids at school. Instead of getting discouraged, Greg decides to sell something teachers like: books.

By the beginning of sixth grade, Greg has written, illustrated, printed, and begun selling his first comic book, Creon: Return of the Hunter. It is the first book in several series of stories he has planned. He calls his books Chunky Comics because his books are short and sturdy. It took him a lot of effort to make the first one, and he is proud of it. More importantly, he is sure it is a good business plan. Although it is time consuming to create books, there is little cost involved. Each twenty-five-cent book makes him twenty-three cents of profit.

He is doing well until his neighbor, Maura Shaw, begins making books too. Greg has never liked Maura, who has been his rival since they were toddlers. She copies what Greg does, and she is usually just as good at it—or better. In the past, she has taken Greg’s business ideas and managed to take his customers by selling at a lower cost. Once she also came up with an idea of her own, making and selling potholders.

Maura obviously stole the comic book idea from Greg, but that will not matter to customers. Her book, The Lost Unicorn, is good, and Greg knows people will buy it. In math class, he confronts Maura and shouts at her; Maura shouts right back. Greg calls Maura a thief, and Maura calls Greg a money-grubber. Overcome, Greg begins to tear up a copy of her book. Maura freaks out and tries to grab it back. In the process, she hits Greg in the face, giving him a bloody nose.

Mr. Z, the sixth-grade math teacher, likes to keep a peaceful classroom environment. He is unable to take control during the argument, however, because he gets faint at the sight of blood. Maura takes Greg to the nurse’s office, where Greg tells the nurse his injury was an accident. When Maura leaves, he looks carefully at her book. He does not like the unicorn story, but he thinks her writing and drawings are good. He looks closer and realizes the drawings are original—it is no wonder she got so upset when he tore the book.

That afternoon, Greg and Maura have to go see Mr. Z to talk about what happened in class. He is late to meet them, and they begrudgingly start a conversation about their books. Maura has just bought a copy of Return of the Hunter, so Greg presses for her opinion. She says she likes it, but she points out that it is a boy story. She tells Greg he should also publish stories that appeal to girls.

When Mr. Z arrives, he listens to both sides of the kids’ argument. He says that Greg was wrong to be angry with Maura because ideas cannot belong to anyone. When Mr. Z tries to make Greg apologize, Greg gets angry. This makes his nosebleed start again, and Mr. Z goes faint. Greg is so mad he taunts Mr. Z’s weakness. Maura takes charge, making Greg stop and getting them both to lie down while she gets the nurse.

On the floor of Mr. Z’s classroom, Greg apologizes for taunting Mr. Z about his phobia. Mr. Z accepts the apology and asks if Greg wants to say he is sorry for anything else. Greg says no, and Mr. Z explains his theory that Greg and Maura do not get along because they are too much alike. He also suggests that Maura likes Greg and that Greg should feel complimented that she liked his book idea enough to want to copy it.

That night, Maura calls Greg to give him the math assignment he missed while he was at the nurse’s office. The next day, she gives him a note saying she loves comic books now. She shows him a book about comics and some scenes from her story, which she has redrawn in comic book style. They are excellent, and this terrifies Greg. He knows if she figures out how to mass-produce her books, she will be a fierce competitor.

Greg tries to lie and tell Maura that her drawings are terrible, but he is interrupted. A classmate sees them together and begins teasing them, saying they are in love. Greg calls the drawings “junk” and flees—but not before he sees how hurt Maura looks.

Later that day, Greg and Maura get called to see the principal, Mrs. Davenport. She accepts that Maura hit Greg by accident, but she changes their class schedules so they are not together anymore. She also forbids them from selling their books, or anything else, at school. She shows Greg several bad knock-off comics made by other kids, and she refuses to recognize any difference between Greg’s high-quality story and the crude, violent work other kids are selling.

Greg is disappointed that he is forbidden to sell his books at school. He decides that he may as well tell Maura the truth about how good her drawings are because he cannot sell his books anyway. Maura is surprised when he apologizes, but she accepts it. Greg tells her how good her pictures are in their strength and timing, and he also tells her how she could improve the scale of her drawings. The two of them make a deal to turn the whole book into a printed comic together. Greg wants part of the profits if they sell any, and Maura bargains hard, demanding seventy-five percent for herself.

Later Mrs. Davenport makes a big announcement to all the students, saying nobody can buy or sell little homemade comics at school; they cannot even bring them onto the school campus. Greg figures that Chunky Comics is dead, but Maura does not. She sees that it is just beginning, and she even says so to Mr. Z. Mr. Z seems surprised, but he offers help if she wants it.

That night, as Greg is settling in to watch a movie with his family, Maura comes to the door. She has made a new cover and a few pages for The Lost Unicorn. Greg photocopies the pages and works on inking them (adding color). Maura does some more drawings. The two of them bicker a good deal, but they cannot help starting to like each other. Also, they both recognize that they do better work together than separately. When they finish Maura’s first book, Greg is amazed at how rewarding it is to watch her enjoy looking at it.

Maura insists that making money is not as important to her as making great art and stories for people to enjoy. Greg tells her this is stupid. He complains about the way people act like he should not want to make money, as if it were bad to be ambitious. A few minutes later, Greg complains when Maura cuts and staples some of the books sloppily. She says kids will buy them anyway, but Greg says he wants Chunky Comics to be perfect. Maura is triumphant:

You do care about whether your comics are good. It doesn’t matter if kids would buy them anyway, they have to be good—that’s what you just said.

Greg gets angry, but privately he has to agree that his desire to make these books is not only about the money.

At school the next day, Maura thinks about how she and Greg could sell comics. When she reads a notice about the comic book issue, she realizes that the School Committee allows some things to be sold at school. All day, she notices advertisements. Her language-arts teacher passes out a book-club flyer. Through that, teachers are selling books at school—including comics.

Maura and Greg show the flyer to Mr. Z and demand to know how the makers of the flyer got permission from the School Committee to sell books at school. Mr. Z says they can ask for permission at the committee’s meeting that Thursday, but he does not seem convinced that they will get what they want. He explains that the book club helps the school by donating books, helping kids learn, and making kids excited about reading. Greg and Maura think fast and say that they can give away free copies of their books and donate some of their profits to the school library.

Mr. Z agrees that it might work, but he is nervous about the whole thing. When the kids pressure him, he reluctantly agrees to submit the issue for discussion at the committee meeting. He is scared of how Mrs. Davenport will react. Sure enough, she confronts Mr. Z the moment she sees the comic book issue on the School Committee agenda.

On the night of the meeting, Greg and Maura sit with their parents and Mr. Z. Greg, who won a coin toss with Maura, gets to speak first at the meeting. He explains how he and Maura have been making comics, and he says he thinks they should be able to sell them just as the book club does. Maura speaks next, showing the committee the order form they will use to sell their books. She explains that they will donate part of their profits to the school library and hold meetings for kids who want to learn how to make books, too. She also promises to let the teachers approve the books and their topics. Mr. Z speaks last; and he says that the kids’ proposal will allow them to use the skills they are learning at school. He also asks the adults in the room how many read comics or cartoons when they were children. When all of them admit that they did, he says this proves people can read comics as kids and still grow up to be responsible, educated adults.

The leader of the School Committee tries to move on, but Mrs. Davenport insists on speaking, too. She shares her worries about what will happen if kids are allowed to think of schools as a place for buying and selling. She thinks it will harm the environment of education, and Greg can see that many adults in the room agree.

Mr. Z argues back, saying that schools are already used for buying and selling. He points out that economic education is important and that it is right for people to get paid for doing good work. Finally, he shares a statistic about how much money American kids have spent in the past year.

Greg thinks this over and realizes he is one of these kids. He is the target of advertisers and businesses, just as he has always thought of his classmates as the targets of his own business schemes. He realizes that it is not fair if he and Maura get special permission to sell books when other kids do not have the same. On the spot, he and Mr. Z hash out a new plan to allow all kids to use the school store to sell products they make. He even says that kids who do this should donate fifty percent of their profits to the school. “Because that way, it’ll be half for profit, and half for learning,” he explains.

Three days later, the School Committee issues permission for kids to sell products at the school store. Greg and Maura begin selling Chunky Comics, and they also begin holding after-school workshops on how to make books. Soon they become editors who have the responsibility to decide which books to accept and which to reject.

Not long after Greg and Maura start their business, the other schools in town begin allowing kids to do business at their school stores. Greg’s and Maura’s comics sell an enormous number of copies, and their business grows. They make a website and an e-mail newsletter, and soon the Chunky Comics group makes a deal to have their books distributed nationally.

On the last day of school, the kids at Greg’s school give over a thousand dollars to the school library. More than nine hundred dollars of that come from Chunky Comics, “and Greg Kenton could not believe how good it felt to give that money away.”

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