Growing up just outside of San Francisco in the '60's, I wanted to be a hippie. I embraced the idea of living with less, and being content. The book, written for young people but appreciated by adults, shares those ideals.
The pen and color wash illustrations are minimal in detail. The limited hues hint at the spare sand and hill desert setting.
Mountain Girl, the adolescent narrator, calls a family meeting to discuss their poverty. As an example she points to their scratched, hand-crafted, repurposed dining table, proof they aren't rich.
So her parents introduce her to their unconventional economy.
"We don't just take our pay in cash, you know. We have a special plan so we get paid in sunsets, too" her mother says. And they start the bookkeeping with a credit of $20,000.
They add generous amounts for dad's pleasure of working where he can sing. They get a bonus for the unique color of a cactus bloom, the presence of day-loving and nocturnal birds. Finally they add the value Mountain Girl brings to their lives, including her list-making abilities. At a whopping one million dollars, she brings the family assets up to $4,055,000.
When she considers her ledger, all on the plus side, it doesn't seem important to add the actual cash they earn. "I suggest it shouldn't even be on a list or our kind of riches."
When I first read this wonderful book I laughed aloud. I had two Mountain Girls at home who complained about our one-car status and having to use public transportation. They thought our decision to not spend money on a TV was ridiculous, while I counted the hours of reading aloud to them as pure gold.
I really wanted the oral reading of this book to be part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Sadly, it didn't catch on. Perhaps this year, as we scrunch husbands, four kids and a baby around the table, I'll try again. I want us to always be mindful that we are blessed beyond reckoning, but still it's good to count those blessings.
I pray you will cherish your time together next week as you sit at the table with the rich people.