Title: Mr. Sam: How Sam Walton Built Walmart and Became America's Richest Man
Author: Karen Blumenthal
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2011
This is the story of Sam Walton, the man who started the business that makes $800,000 a minute. But Sam wasn't always wealthy; when he was in grade school, he milked cows and sold magazines door-to-door to help his family survive during the Depression.
Starting off as a recent college graduate working for $75 dollars a week at J.C. Penny, Sam began to understand new things about business, such as the essence of discounting and selling in bulk.
After marrying Helen and serving state-side during WWII, Sam Walton bought a small five-and-dime store in a small town. Even in the face of adversity, Sam did not ever give up. He would one day own both Walmart and Sam's Club and be known worldwide.
Positive Elements: Throughout the book, readers see Mr. Walton being a leader in various ways, from his high school football team to his family to his business efforts. Sam wisely listens to others' advice and concerns, including his wife, Helen, and his father-in-law. Helen is presented as a wonderful mother. Sam Walton teaches his children to be frugal at early ages. Sam hired black workers even when it was not popular in the 1950s and 60s and others mocked him for it. Walton says of money, "It's paper, anyway. It was paper when we started, and it's paper afterward." Helen is quoted as saying, "It isn't what you gather in life; it's what you share that tells the kind of life you lived." Sam keeps his head high in the midst of fighting cancer.
Extra tidbits of information are strewn throughout the book in the form of short stories, such as how the shopping cart came to be and a brief biography of J.C. Penny. Pictures from Sam Walton's personal and corporate life are spread throughout the text. There are also "Our Money" charts that explain different concepts about money from the days of the Depression through today. For example, there is a graph of how money would have been spent on average in a typical family at the end of each chapter to show how spending has changed.
Negative Elements: In the first chapter, the author discusses what is important to Sam Walton. She states, "Money might not be that meaningful to him, but winning certainly was." While there is nothing wrong with winning, there is a large emphasis on this theme throughout the book, to the point where parents may wish to discuss how there are sometimes things that are more important. At one point in order to win, Sam was paying his employees less than minimum wage.
Also, Sam Walton's home life growing up wasn't the best one, with his parents fighting constantly. This isn't dwelt on within the book, just mentioned.
The word "damned" is included in a quote in the third chapter. "Ass" is used in chapter five. "Heck" is found in chapter six.
There is a quote of a sexual nature about selling women's lingerie in chapter four.
Parents may or may not agree with the political views expressed in the Epilogue when discussing the more recent lawsuits that Walmart has faced or causes to which they have donated money.
~ ~ ~This book would be great as an addition to an economics course for a middle grade or high school student. In the book's conclusion, young people are encouraged to aspire to their own business pursuits and live frugally and selflessly no matter how much money they may acquire.
How much do you know about the biggest company in the world and the man behind it?
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