Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies

28464257Lynn: Phineas Bump, Assistant Marshal of the United States, is assigned to count the people of the great state of Vermont in 1790. He is “saddle-sore, heartsick and down on his luck” when he rides into Tunbridge. In the first house he calls on he meets Mrs. Pepper who fears that the tally will be used for taxation and conscription. She shuts the door in Phineas’ face and decides that Tunbridge will be the town that tricks the tallyman. Mrs. Pepper and her son Boston are clever but they can’t match Phineas, a man who likes a challenge. It takes three tries but Phineas finally achieves a “fair and true” count that satisfies everyone.

What a hoot this book is – part trickster tale, part history and all fun! Tricking the Tallyman (Random/Knopf, 2009) blends comic shenanigans with a real history lesson about the census process and ensures that readers will painlessly absorb some important information. The lively text is accompanied by S.D. Schindler’s delightful illustrations. Disgruntled turkeys and pigs in mobcaps provide lots of humor as the battle of wits unfolds. An author’s note provides more fascinating information. If only all our history books were this entertaining!

Cindy: 232 days: 0 hours: 51 minutes: 47 seconds until the next U. S. Census on April 1, 2010. You can view an updated countdown clock here. While the clock ticks down (loudly!), teachers will want to visit the government’s Census in the Schools page with lesson plans, quizzes, coloring pages, state facts, etc. for using the upcoming Census in their classrooms. Tricking the Tallyman will be perfect to use with elementary students to highlight the differences between this first census and the ones that are fueled by technology today. Still, getting a count of the exact number of people living in the United States is as daunting as it was 200+ years ago. Fortunately, this fun blend of history and folktale format will add some levity to the process.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies"

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  1. What an unusual topic for a children’s book. Thanks for the review. I’ll check it out.

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