Gary Paulsen, . . Random/Lamb, $12.99 (88pp) ISBN 978-0-385-74686-1
At the start of this witty, quick-moving tale from the Newbery author, a 12-year-old receives an unexpected birthday present from his grandmother: his late grandfather's riding lawn mower. Since his family's lawn is postage-stamp size with grass that “never seemed to grow enough to need mowing,” he's initially unsure what to do with the machine. But he soon realizes that he can earn money mowing neighbors' lawns—perhaps even enough to buy a new inner tube for his bike. As the young entrepreneur's lawn-mowing business booms, he sees green in more ways than one, making enough money to buy countless inner tubes and learning a lesson about capitalism and investing. His teacher, a colorful ex-hippie named Arnold, is a down-on-his-luck stockbroker who brokers a barter deal with the lad, offering to invest his earnings for him in exchange for grass-cutting services. Repeatedly remarking how “groovy” Lawn Boy's success is, Arnold instructs his young pal in the rules of the business road, humorously reflected in Paulsen's chapter titles (such as “Capital Growth Coupled with the Principles of Production Expansion” and “Conflict Resolution and Its Effects on Economic Policy”). Adding further wry dimension to the plot are a tough-talking thug who threatens to take over the kid's business, the prize fighter whom Arnold (through another investment) arranges for Lawn Boy to sponsor, and the boy's delightfully—and deceptively—dotty grandmother, who gets the novel's sage last line: “You know, dear, Grandpa always said, take care of your tools and they'll take care of you.” Readers will find this madcap story a wise investment of their time. Ages 10-up.
Reviewed on: 06/11/2007