The Financial Literacy book review series #FinLit recommends thought-provoking books about money, investing, and personal finance. This post is about Lawn Boy and Lawn Boy Returns by Gary Paulsen.
“One minute I was twelve years old and wondering where I could get enough money for an inner tube for my old used ten-speed. I didn’t have any money and my parents didn’t have much either. The next minute, it seems, I’ve got a business of my own, with employees, and I’m rich.”
When the main character of Lawn Boy inherits a riding lawnmower from his grandfather, he decides to make some money mowing neighbors' lawns. He becomes an overnight sensation, attracting an accountant to watch over his money and plenty of loyal workers. Before he knows it, he's the sponsor to a professional boxer, tough guys want to disrupt his business, and he tries to hide the chaotic success from his friends and parents. In the sequel, Lawn Boy's winning streak continues to complicate his life, as the media tries to turn him into a celebrity and relatives appear to take advantage of all the money sloshing around.
Both Lawn Boy books are fast, clocking in at 100 pages apiece with stories that move quickly from chapter to chapter. Half the humor comes from Lawn Boy's unlikely success and how everyone reacts to it. The other half comes from the colorful characters in his life. Young entrepreneurs and investors are unlikely to multiply their money quite so quickly, but this kid demonstrates the power of a strong work ethic and ability to work as part of a team. The writing style and sense of humor are geared toward tween readers. However, older readers could learn a lot parsing the accountant's financial wizardry. Each chapter is titled like a lesson out of an economics textbook, when the contents are more like "don't underestimate grandmas who know how to throw a kidney punch."
Something Lawn Boy does that everyone should learn is pace himself. Whenever he needs to clear his mind, he sits in his mower. Its two settings, turtle and rabbit, remind him of the importance of changing speeds. Taking life too slowly keeps him from getting what he wants, while moving too fast makes him a nervous wreck. As with many things in life, balance and self-reflection are key.