Gary Paulsen: Lawn Boy

I am currently taking a course on library services for young adults in which I have been asked to review 10 books, so I have decided to post my reviews here too. This is my second review. (You can read other book reviews that I have done here if you really want to.) This book will probably appeal to kids between the ages of 9 and 12. Themes include math, family values, summer jobs, and investing. The genre is humour.

The (nameless?) narrator of this story has just started his summer holidays when his eccentric grandmother gives him an old lawnmower for his 12th birthday. He is not initially impressed with the gift, but decides to take it out for a spin on his family’s lawn. The neighbours notice this activity and are quick to try to employ the boy to cut their lawns too, as the guy who usually does their lawns got up to no good (ran off with someone’s wife!) and now the neighbours don’t trust him. The boy takes the first job, thinking that he will be able to use the money he makes to replace the broken inner tube on his bicycle, but soon he finds himself with a full-time job six days a week and more money than he ever dreamed of earning. With the help of a hippie stockbroker, he starts investing his money and expanding his business. By the end of the summer, it will be interesting to see how much the boy has earned — and learned.

This is a very lighthearted book written in a way that will appeal to reluctant readers — especially boys. It displays some good family values (the narrator trusts his parents and thinks that they are the smartest people he knows), but it also has a bit of violence, which I don’t personally like to see in a book for young people. I suspect, though, that the violence will appeal to the intended audience — young boys. (And I do admit that I am probably a bit of a prude in this regard. I would prefer not to see any violence at all in books or movies — which I know is an unrealistic expectation.)

What I liked best about this book is that it teaches kids about the concept of investing. I never really developed a good understanding of how investing works until well into my adulthood. I think that this book gives kids a good introduction to the concept of making your money work for you, without actually sitting them down and making them work with formulas and equations. I think it might spark some interest in math, which can only be a good thing.

Even though Amazon lists this book as appropriate for “young adults”, I would say that it is more in the 9-12 year old range.