The Ox-Cart Man is an older picture book with charming folk-style illustrations.
I like its subtle work theme: each person labors for the good of the family. Even the children have skills which contribute to the family's budget.
When the father carries the year's surplus to market, he uses their profits to buy things which will improve the next year's labor--a knife, an embroidery needle, and an iron kettle. (Okay, okay, he also buys two pounds of peppermints, too!)
Then the next year's cycle begins anew.
We're thinking about the value of work right now, testing out chore charts and reward systems for our three-year-old. While Andrew should learn that his labor will produce fruit, I don't want him to fritter his money away on cheap plastic doodads from Dollar Tree. And I don't intend to reward him richly enough for Toys 'R Us, either!
With The Ox Cart Man in mind, I've started the Family General Store. It's a portion of the coat closet filled with some of the surplus great toys I keep finding. (Everyone is cleaning out toy boxes in January, and the thrift stores are TEEMING with treats, like the huge Lincoln Log castle set, in its original box, for $1.99 (Toy store tag: $33). )
This way we both benefit--Andrew has the pleasure of selecting his own reward, and I don't have to waste my own money on toys without educational or long-lasting play value. I plan to include the occasional great buy on candy, secondhand videos, and small things like a good pack of chalk, for those weeks when he doesn't "earn" enough for the big ticket items.
So far the system is working splendidly. I predict the Family General Store will be a fixture of our coat closet for years to come.