REVIEW: The Great $20 Adventure by Effie Zahos and Illustrated by IIona Tar

Published: 2nd November 2015

Publisher: Bauer Media Group


Format: Softcover picture book (hired from the library)

RRP: $14.95

/5 Stars

“What would you do if your Grandma gave you $20 for your birthday? 

Max and his dog, George, go on a great $20 adventure and learn that there’s more you can do with money than just spend it.”


Effie Zhaos is a financial guru and author of A Real Girl’s Guide to Money: From Converse to Louboutins (2019), but back in 2015 she published a picture book, The Great $20 Adventure, with Illustrator IIona Tar to teach children about the importance, and value, of money.

When Max is gifted $20 for his birthday, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Should he spend it all at once? Save it?  Undecided, Max goes for a walk with his dog George and along the way he meets: Miss Penny Saver the Squirrel who insists he saves it’; Jack Flash ” the prettiest turkey you'[ve] ever see[n]’ with all the latest ‘it’ items who  heard that Max has money that needs to be spent;  Donny Dangerous, the shady big bad wolf conman who swears he can double the money; Queen Bee the business entrepreneur wants him to start a business; and lastly, charity spokesperson Mr Givings who asks for a donation. With so many options, Max finds himself more confused than ever.

I did enjoy the fairytale edge to this story and liked that the narrator kept asking the reader if they thought  Max and George should spend the money. By doing so Zahos continually broke down the fourth wall and put the question back on the reader asking them to choose what option they would prefer. It would be interesting to see how many times a child changes their answer throughout the book or if they were to stick to their first choice right from the beginning of the book.

IIona Tar’s illustrations were cute cartoon figures that brought a homely and fantastical element to the story. Although I will admit to being a tad confused when ‘some’ of the characters suddenly transform into humans on one page only to be animals again on the next. The text doesn’t support this transformation, and although we all know the various characters Max and George meet on their walk are very real people, it was a bit jarring to the story.

Given both Zahos’ and Tar’s financial backgrounds, it comes at no surprise that they have included a couple of pages of financial advice and ideas to teach children about the basics and realities of money from a young age.

Taking everything into consideration, I can see that Zahos, as a financial guru, had the best intentions with this book. While it is a fantastic teaching tool, I found the story lacking in parts and pretty two dimensional. The concept is brilliant, but the narrative comes across preachy and little too forced for my liking. That said, Zahos has developed and circulated a great book for children about money, and it’s a book that all Australian children (Zhaos is Australian, the book is set here) SHOULD read despite being incredibly hard to track down a copy.

All in all The Great $20 Adventure is an enjoyable story that shows a lot of promise. It’s a good starting point to talk to young children about money and how to be responsible with it.


To purchase a copy of The Great $20 Adventure, visit the following online retailers:

Amazon AUS | Angus & RobertsonBook Depository | QBD

To learn more about Effie Zahos, visit the following social media sites:

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

To learn more about IIona Tar, visit the following social media sites:


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