This weekend, we were saddened to hear of the death of Jean Merrill, one of our all-time favorite children’s book authors, whose 1964 novel The Pushcart War still informs our thinking today. The literary queen of the underdogs, Merrill’s books nearly all concern the disadvantaged, the weak, the outcasts rising up against their oppressors (be it Corporate Toothpaste or trucking companies) and, of course, winning the day. To celebrate her life and her body of work, we’ve put together a list of our all-time favorite underdogs in literature. Read through our selections below, and let us know which characters you’d add in the comments.
Morris the Florist (and company), The Pushcart War
In Merrill’s most well-known novel, a group of New York City pushcart peddlers led by Morris the Florist do battle with the tyrannical trucking companies, armed only with a pack of pea-shooters (good for flattening tires) and their wits. Literally a David and Goliath story expanded to a whole cast of characters, only with a satisfyingly populist bent, this is the classic underdog story writ large — and writ clever.