Lawn Boy

Lawn Boy

4.1 173
by Gary Paulsen

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One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa's old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about "the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth."

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One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa's old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more. . . . One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about "the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth." "Wealth?" I said. "It's groovy, man," said Arnold.

If I'd known what was coming, I might have climbed on my mower and putted all the way home to hide in my room. But the lawn business grew and grew. So did my profits, which Arnold invested in many things. And one of them was Joey Pow the prizefighter. That's when my 12th summer got really interesting.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred review, Booklist, April 15, 2007:
"[A] short and hilarious tale . . . When it comes to telling funny stories about boys, no one surpasses Paulsen, and here he is in top form."

“Paulsen has mastered the very hard trick of sounding exactly like a twelveyear- old without being either cute or condescending.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly

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. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
Summer vacation was never as productive as the summer he turned twelve. That summer, he (who is never mentioned by name) receives his grandfather's old riding lawn mower for his birthday, yet does not have a lawn much larger than a postage stamp. When the neighbors noticed and started asking for their lawns to be mowed, the trouble began. We should all have this kind of trouble! One lawn led to another, leads to another , and soon he find himself with a small business, complete with employees and more money than his parents. Our ‘hero' learns through another neighbor about investing, capitalism, and offering employee benefits—all at the tender age of 12. While this is an easily read book, the story is a bit overwhelming at times. Paulsen creates realistic characters, yet presents them with far-fetched, if not illegal opportunities. The inclusion of owning a prize fighter really places this out of most reader's league, yet makes for an interesting book discussion for pre-adolescents or even potential business students.
Tucked deep within a lesson in economics is an actual young adult story, or so Paulsen would have readers believe in this story of a young boy who receives a riding lawn mower from his grandmother for his twelfth birthday. Before long, the nameless narrator is befriended by a neighborly stocks expert, who invests his money in coffins. From there, it is all good as the narrator's money doubles, triples, quadruples to the point where he owns his own fighter, named Joey Pow. There is not very much to the story beyond that. As the money accumulates, so do the problems, such as dealing with an extortionist named Rock, but at under one hundred pages, this book is a trifling at best. It would have been more interesting and realistic to read about a kid struggling to keep his lawn business afloat all summer, with hilarious results, but that is not the story Paulsen is telling. Nor does he make much effort to go anywhere most readers are anxious to follow. A typical chapter heading is "Economic Expansion Combined with Portfolio Diversification." A fun mental image is to picture this book as a how-to bible in the hands of some diehard young entrepreneur, but in reality the only ones who are going to be eager for the book are economics teachers salivating over the chance to meet their students halfway. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7
Learning the workings of the free-market economy has never been more fun than in this tall tale of entrepreneurship set in Eden Prairie, MN. When the narrator's grandmother gives him an old rider mower for his 12th birthday, his life changes; he senses "some kind of force behind it." Almost as soon as he figures out how to run it, the boy is in business-by the second day he has eight jobs. When he mows the lawn of Arnold Howell, an aging hippie e-trader, the cash-poor man offers a stock-market account in lieu of payment. Arnold not only invests the money; he also offers business advice. Soon lawn boy has a partner, 15 employees, a lot of money invested in the market, and a prizefighter. Chapter headings suggest business principles behind what is happening. Throughout the tale, the narrator is innocent of his success as he rises early each morning to begin each job, eats lunch on the mower, and longs for a less-hectic summer vacation. This rags-to-riches success story has colorful characters, a villain, and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to make it an enjoyable selection for the whole family.
—Kathryn KosiorekCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
After his grandmother gives him an old riding lawnmower for his summer birthday, this comedy's 12-year-old narrator putt-putts into a series of increasingly complex and economically advantageous adventures. As each lawn job begets another, one client-persuasive day-trader Arnold Howell-barters market investing and dubious local business connections. Our naive entrepreneur thus unwittingly acquires stock in an Internet start-up and a coffin company; a capable landscaping staff of 15 and the sponsorship of a hulking boxer named Joseph Powdermilk. There's a semi-climactic scuffle with some bad guys bent on appropriating the lawn business, but Joey Pow easily dispatches them. If there's tension here, it derives from the unremitting good news: While the reader may worry that Arnold's a rip-off artist, Joey Pow will blow his fight, or (at the very least) the parents will go ballistic once clued in-all ends refreshingly well. The most complicated parts of this breezy affair are the chapter titles, which seem lifted from an officious, tenure-track academician's economics text. Capital! (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years


Meet the Author

Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, His most recent books are The Legend of Bass Reeves, Molly McGinty Has a Really Good Day, The Time Hackers, and The Amazing Life of Birds. He lives in New Mexico and Alaska.

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