Thin Mint Memories:
Scouting for Empowerment through the Girl Scout Cookie Program

by Shelley Johnson Carey

Clear Message Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0-998-14800-8.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 04/23/2017

Nonfiction: Biography; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: American Women in the Cultural/Historical Context

I began reading Thin Mint Memories right at the peak of Girl Scout cookie season, so when I encountered a lively group of girls conducting a booth in front of my supermarket you can guess that I loaded up on several flavors—Thin Mints as well as S'mores, a 2017 brand new flavor. I proceeded to munch my way through this book which offers almost as many approaches to the Girl Scout cookie story as the cookies have flavors.

Scattered through the text between the chapters are personal memories of grown-up Scouts. These intriguing recollections triggered memories of my own: the sheer terror of standing in my Brownie uniform all by myself knocking on a strange front door with my empty order book in my hand—and my daddy hidden behind a nearby tree. (Girl Scouts have stressed safety from the beginning.) Thank you, Mrs. Colley. I made the sale. In later years as a customer I never bought cookies from a parent—"send the Scout and I'll buy the cookie."

The Scouts stress the selling experience for their members. They are not using the cookies merely as a fund raiser, but also as a means of teaching important skills to their members: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. The title ot the book captures them all—"Empowerment."

Carey begins at the beginning with the life of the person who made it happen—Juliette Low of Savannah, Georgia. Even Girl Scouts will find some surprises here, for Carey burrowed through the Girl Scout archives to get forgotten facts that augment the traditional story of its founder. She moves right on to the business history of the cookies from a few homemade offerings made by individual troops to the huge enterprise it is today—with revenues rising into the hundreds of millions. But the author keeps it personal—even offering the recipe for the original cookie.

Going from the inclusive to the specific, the book focuses on Girl Scout Troop 2288 near Washington D.C., led by full-of-life Jennifer M. This gives us a good look not only at cookie sales today, but a full view of some great Girl Scouts. Here is empowerment in action.

Girls Scouts and former Girl Scouts are the obvious audience for this book, but I won't be surprised to see it gain broader appeal. As a former university professor of economics, I can see this book as a fine case study not only in economics but in management and marketing. Did I enjoy the book? I did and I was back at the supermarket the next weekend loading up on more cookies and sharing my book with those fine young businesswomen.

Girl Scouts are some smart cookies.

Girl Scouting is part of Shelley Johnson Carey's life. Not surprising. Her mother Gwendolyn Bacoats Johnson was a Scouting pioneer as a proud member of the first African American Girl Scout troop in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She went on to be not only the leader of Shelley's troop but also a Council "Cookie Depot" Mom. Like her mom, Shelley didn't stop after her Senior Scout years. She became a summer Girl Scout camp counselor and never lost her taste for Girl Scout cookies. She first began to write about them when she studied for an MFA at Goucher College. She now works in educational publishing while living in Silvers Spring, Maryland with her husband and near her three children. Her favorite cookie is the Samoa. Learn more on her website.

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