Do Not PASS GO Until You Read This Book!

Cindy: Monopoly has an interesting history and Tanya Lee Stone has produced a thought-provoking picture book about it: Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented (2018). Originally called The Landlord’s Game, it was created by Lizzie Magie, who was looking for a way to demonstrate the unfair relationship between landlords and tenants as more people began living in urban areas. She received the first patent ever for a board game in 1904, “at a time when women received fewer than one percent of all US patents.”

Lizzie kept improving the game, and both the rules and board changed as it was shared and played across the country, even in college business classes. (Apparently, people were making up their own “Monopoly” rules even before the game acquired its final name.) Parker Brothers initially rejected the game when Lizzie tried to sell it to them in 1909, believing “it was too challenging and educational.”

A homemade version of the game fell into the hands of Charles Darrow, unemployed due to the economic depression of the early 1930s. He set to work designing his own version with new artwork and the now-famous name. The rest of the story provides fodder for a debate about intellectual property that could last as long as a rousing game of Monopoly!

I first read about Magie and Darrow in a chapter called “Everything You Don’t Want in a Game” from Nathan Aaseng’s The Rejects: People and Products that Outsmarted the Experts (1989), a book I found in my middle-school library. It also included chapters about FedEx delivery, Orville Redenbacher popcorn, Xerox, and Birdseye frozen food among other rejected products. That book is out of print so I’m especially glad to have Stone’s book keeping Lizzie’s contribution to the game alive.

Lynn: It’s impossible not to be captivated by this fascinating story! Making it even more irresistible are Steven Salerno’s lively illustrations, which would bring a smile to the face of even a player who just landed on Boardwalk and found it loaded with hotels. Created with crayon, ink, gouache and then Photoshopped, the brightly colored illustrations are in a delightful retro style that is a tip of the top hat to the original art of the game. Part of the fun of this book is spotting the various familiar parts of the game board on the pages.

This is a terrific text to use with middle-grade and middle-school students as a springboard to discussions on inventions, copyright, and intellectual property rights. Rounding out the fun are two pages in the back matter: “Tremendous Trivia” includes fascinating facts about the game and “Monopoly Math” offers Monopoly-based math puzzles.

My favorite game piece was always the Scotty dog—how about you?




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.

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