Usually when you think of Gary Paulsen, you think of survival books, where someone learns how to hunt rabbits with a homemade bow and arrow, or to kill and skin a moose, (e.g. Hatchet, Brian's Winter etc.) In this book, however, Paulsen explores a different wild and untamed environment--personal finance. The 12 year old narrator of the book receives a used lawn mower from his grandmother for his birthday. He decides to use it to earn a little money by mowing other people's yards. His services are in high demand, and soon he has more yards than he can handle. With the help of one of his customers, who is a hippy stock broker, he gets other people to help him, and soon is the boss of a small company. His stock broker invests his income in risky penny stocks, that immediately sky rocket. In just a few weeks the boy is richer than he ever imagined, but in way over his head. This is a very funny story about one kid's amazing summer, when everything just happened to fall into place.
Gary Paulsen doesn't do very many speaking engagements. He would rather be out on his 40 ft schooner trying to circumnavigate the Americas or running the Iditarod. I was lucky enough to hear him speak once, and I can't help but think the way the boy in the book is baffled by finances is probably autobiographical. When he spoke to us, Gary Paulsen seemed to be overwhelmed by his own financial success. This is a great book for reluctant reader boys (as are all Gary Paulsen's books), especially since it is only 88 pages long, and written for a preteen audience.