Illustration by Howard Fridson, courtesy of Doris Rubenstein
The Journey of a Dollar_Doris Rubenstein
In 2006, Doris Rubenstein’s goddaughter asked her a question that made her pause: How does the money her elementary class is donating get halfway across the world? How does it help? That question inspired The Journey of a Dollar, a nonfiction children’s book that was recently named a category finalist for Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Awards.
The small chapter book teaches both basic financial literacy and philanthropic values. Young readers follow second-grader Elliot as he learns how to earn a dollar for his class’s fundraiser, and then they track the dollar as it travels across the country, eventually making its way to a village in Ecuador where a school with children like Elliot can use it.
This is Rubenstein’s fourth book, but as her first one for children, she enlisted some help from neighbors Gus and Milo, her 6- and 8-year-old consultants. She would give the boys (and their parents) drafts of the book and ask them questions about whether the language was right, whether the names were appropriate.
Like most kids, Gus and Milo held no qualms about telling Rubenstein exactly what they thought about her story. “If something wasn’t quite right, they let me know," she says. "If something was right on, if there was something that they found funny that was supposed to be funny, they let me know, too.”
Other children in Rubenstein’s life wove their way into the book. Every child in the book is named after a real kid—a grandchild of a friend, a niece, children she met during her food shelf volunteering. The real Elliot grew up in Edina as the son of some good friends. Now 26, he was happy to cheer Rubenstein on at the book’s launch party at Richfield’s Wood Lake Nature Center.
Rubenstein also had international inspiration. The Ecuadorian village in her book is a real place where she has volunteered. The book’s final illustration showing the children and the school was based on a real-life photograph. Rubenstein had always wanted to be a journalist, but her international volunteering experience was the pivotal step that sparked a passion for philanthropy and a career largely around fundraising.
“One dollar plays its role—that’s what this book shows,” says Rubenstein. “By itself it can’t do too much, but the power in numbers is really where it’s at. It’s about working together and philanthropy for a good cause.”
The Journey of a Dollar ($18), available locally at Red Balloon Book Shop, 891 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-8320, redballoonbookshop.com