Very Rich

by Polly Horvath (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Rupert lives with his parents and many siblings in a small house in the poorest section of Steelville, Ohio. When he spends Christmas with his classmate Turgid Rivers, he is offered all the food he can eat, and the opportunity to win wonderful prizes in the family games--prizes he hopes to take home so he can share his Christmas bounty with his family. But after he loses everything in the last game, Rupert resigns himself to going home empty handed.

Feeling secretly guilty, all of the adults in Rivers family try to make it up to him by taking Rupert on one unlikely adventure after another, embroiling him in everything from time travel to bank robberies. But can anything he experiences make up for what he has lost?

Deftly blending magical realism with heartbreak, hope, and a wide cast of eccentric characters, Polly Horvath weaves a tale that is darkly funny and deeply poignant. Very Rich is a bittersweet and quirky story that celebrates the unique nature of human experience.

A Junior Library Guild selection!

Publishers Weekly

Trekking to school only to realize it's Christmas Day, 10-year-old Rupert Brown, part of a large and impoverished family, finds himself in the "very rich" part of Steeleville, Ohio. After Rupert faints on the lawn of Turgid Rivers, "the richest boy at school," he spends the day with the eccentric Rivers family as they indulge in extravagant meals and engage in a series of competitive games. His pile of prizes growing, Rupert fantasizes about bringing his winnings back to his family, only to have those hopes dashed as he loses it all. After Rupert's loss and return to his routine of hunger and sibling hordes, members of the Rivers family seek him out to embark on adventures, including a secret restaurant takeover that leaves customers literally floating with happiness, a trip back in time, and a bungled jewel heist. Rupert's hijinks with the various Rivers prove enlightening, imparting that, no matter one's provenance, life is "a unique and glorious thing." Packed with outrageous characters and moments of brilliant clarity, Horvath's holiday romp touches on thankfulness and the importance of self-acceptance. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Horvath is at her odd, arch best." — Kirkus Reviews
Polly Horvath
Polly Horvath has written many books for children including Everything on a Waffle, a Newbery Honor Book; The Canning Season, a National Book Award winner; and The Trolls, a National Book Award finalist. She lives in British Columbia with her family. Visit her at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2018
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 09/01/18

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