Lawn Boy

by Gary Paulsen


Title: Lawn Boy

Author: Gary Paulsen

Publisher: Random House Children's Book

ISBN: 030753698X, 9780307536983

Genre: Realistic Fiction

My Review

Lawn Boy is a book about how a boy went from mowing lawns to find a few bucks to becoming one of the richest kids on earth. This boy started with a lawn mower that he got from his grand mother for his birthday, and made over one hundred thousand dollrars. He made most of his money from his stockbroker, Arnold, who put ten dollars in astock and made over ninety thousand dollars. Arnold also got more workers for the Lawn boy, the workers made over one thousand dollars a week in profit for the Lawn boy. Then, The Lawn Boy put money into sponsoring a prizefighter, named Joey. Joey also protects The Lawn Boy from threats. But, the boy hasn't told his parents because he is afraid that they will think he is bragging about his earnings. Also, the boy has a problem of somebody trying to take over his business and take all of his money.

Kirkus Review

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 naïve 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)

New York Times Review

Gary Paulsen’s novel “Lawn Boy” is a Horatio Alger story for the hedge fund era. Not nearly as earnest as the Alger books, and a lot more fun to read, it’s about a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who in the course of a summer earns half a million dollars without really doing a whole lot. Paulsen’s unnamed narrator has two non-Horatian advantages: a stockbroker and a piece of heavy equipment. Or sort of heavy; it’s an old riding mower given to him by his grandmother as a 12th-birthday present. Though not in the least mechanical-minded, he feels an instant bond with the machine, and almost as soon as he fires it up a neighbor comes by offering to pay 20 bucks for a mowing job. The local lawn care guy, it turns out, has just run off with the wife of a customer, and presumably because he poses less of a sexual threat, Lawn Boy, as we might as well call him, soon has more work than he can handle. So he expands, hiring some undocumented workers, and alsoinvests his profits in the market, starting with some shares in a coffin company

Lawn Boy is guided in all these endeavors by a local day trader named Arnold Howell, who takes it upon himself to initiate the boy into the mysteries and beauties of capitalism. (The chapter titles all sound like an economics textbook: “Capital Growth Coupled With the Principles of Production Expansion,” “Economic Expansion Combined With Portfolio Diversification,” and the like.) Arnold, who has a bowl-job haircut, wears ’70s clothing and says “groovy” a lot, is the sort of character who makes an adult reader worry he might be a child molester. But his agenda is apparently benign, and his gift for picking stocks is so good you wonder why he’s stuck in Eden Prairie, Minn., instead of on the floor at Bear Stearns. To diversify, he also gets Lawn Boy to invest in a kindly but possibly overconcussed prizefighter named Joseph Powdermilk Jr., a k a Joey Pow, who comes in handy when a bad guy called Rock tries to muscle in on the lawn business.

All this would be much harder to take were it not for the book’s appealing style of narration. Lawn Boy is quick to admit that he is a kid with an “average brain and average grades,” and he relates his successes with wonderment. Except perhaps for not being quite gross enough, Paulsen has mastered the very hard trick of sounding exactly like a 12-year-old without being either cute or condescending. Far from bragging about his newfound wealth, moreover, Lawn Boy is a little embarrassed by it, not wanting to show up his hard-working parents. (Mom teaches in an experimental school, and Dad is a not-very-successful inventor.)

Unusual for books of this sort, which combine enterprise with what is essentially a summer idyll in the way of, say, Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price stories or Beverly Cleary’s “Henry and the Paper Route,” Lawn Boy has no friends, no extra-business adventures and not a clue about what to do with his money. But unlike Arnold, he will probably wind up at a fund like Citadel or Cerberus and amass so much dough that he can endow an entire lawnmower museum.

More Information


"LAWN BOY by Gary Paulsen | Kirkus Reviews." Kirkus Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Lawn Boy. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Mcgrath, Charles. "Children’s Books." The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Aug. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Liar Liar. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Road Trip. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

Lawn Boy Returns. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.