Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

A twelve-year-old boy receives a rickety-old riding mower for a birthday present that was once his grandfather's and isn't quite sure what he will make of it, at first. Then, with some thinking he realizes that he can capitalize on all of the lawns throughout his neighborhood, and buy that inner-tube that he's longed to buy for the summer. As the grass grew, so did Lawn Boy's mowing business.

At first he questions his job as a Lawn Boy: No vacation. Seven thousand five hundred dollars (a week). No summer fun. Seven thousand five hundred dollars. Then he meets Arnold, a stock-broker that persuades him to invest his earnings for him in exchange of cutting his lawn. He agrees and Lawn Boy learns the economic terms and jargon as he sees his earnings grow and grow. Paulsen highlights these terms through the titles of his chapters, i.e. "The Law of Increasing Product Demand Versus Flat Production Capacity", "Capital Growth Coupled with the Principles of Production Expansion," and "Labor Acquisition and Its Effect on Capital Growth." Arnold teaches the young businessman about terms such as investing, capitalism, and hiring employees while also providing benefits.

As Lawn Boy's money accumulates, problems also rise to the surface - an extorsionist named Rock threatens to take over his business and take all his workers; however, Joseph Powdermilk (a prize fighter that Arnold encourages him to sponser) protects the business, its investments, and employees by threatening the "villian" of the story. All of this goes unkown of Lawn Boy's parents (whose real name is neve revealed by Paulsen), until he finally must get help from them because of his assumption that Rock and his gang are holding Arnold prisoner. They all decide to go over to Arnold's house and demand that Joey assist them in getting rid of the men that are threatening Arnold; and without "pinching off their heads," Rock promises that he won't come back to bother them again.

At the story's end, Lawn Boy and Arnold sell a stock worth $485,000 - and after revealing this to his parents, his father faints. His grandmother says to him, "You know, dear, Grandpa always said, take care of your tools and they'll take care of you." (look how this turned out!)

Gary Paulsen's writing style captures the personality of a young twelve-year-old boy, and his demonstration of the narrator's lack of knowledge in how the business world works. Lawn Boy never brags about his earnings, while not even revealing the profit he is making until the end of the story, due to the fact of not wanting to "show his parents up." When researching as to why Paulsen went from writing stories that catered to outdoor adventure series to writing humorous books, he stated, "I love writing humor. I really enjoy it. I had a dog handler helping me, a kid, and (what happens to Lawn Boy) actually sort of happened with him. When he was 13 or 14, he started a lawn care business and he actually made $25,000. It just blew me away, so I kind of used that as the basic story line for this. He also had empolyees and everything. It was really funny." (http://www.timeforkids.com/)

I believe that young adult readers will appreciate and understand the terms presented in Lawn Boy. The economic wordings and concepts may be a bit too sophisticated for intermediate readers. "It makes for an interesting book discussion for pre-adolescents or even potential business students." (~ Children's Literature review). Reading this book allowed for me to spruce up my knowledge of this topic , while involving humor and an action-filled plot that kept my fullest attention. (wish this was around during my high school economics class!!)



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