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The author is best known for his short novel Hatchet, about a boy who survives being stranded in the Canadian wilderness. This is his newest book, from the teen section of your local bookstore, an outstanding summer read enjoyable for all but especially for younger readers since it's only 88 pages long.
Duane comes from a poor and somewhat eccentric family in an otherwise affluent neighborhood. On his twelfth birthday, his grandmother gifts him an old-school riding mower which belonged to his late grandfather. An unusual gift for a twelve year-old boy, perhaps, but it works out well. Perhaps grandma is clairvoyant.
Left with little to do over the summer in his small town, Duane begins mowing lawns in his neighborhood. In a matter of days, he finds he has more clients than he can handle. As he's about to begin turning new customers down, he meets an immigrant laborer named Pasqual with a large family of out-of-work gardeners. The two forge a deal in which Pasqual's family will mow for Duane's growing business in exchange for a share of the profits.
Sounds reasonable so far, right?
Here's where it starts to get interesting. One of Duane's clients is a day-trading stockbroker named Arnold, who's a talented investor but short on cash. In exchange for having his own lawn mowed, Arnold agrees to invest the money Duane and his companions earn mowing lawns, and then pay it all in a lump sum at the end of the summer.
So how much can a twelve year-old boy earn mowing lawns over the summer? Quite a lot, as it turns out. He's soon making thousands of dollars through his investments, and is hailed as a Wall Street genius.
It's interesting how everything positive in the story happens to Duane by chance: he receives a lawn mower, and people in his neighborhood offer to work for him, hire him, or invest for him. He just shrugs his shoulders and accepts whatever they offer. It's being receptive to the ideas that gets him ahead.
This is a delightful story, filled with interesting character and optimistic plot turns. I finished it in about an hour, so it won't seem like a chore for even the most reluctant reader. At times his successes seem a bit exaggerated: by the end of the story Duane has invested in a prize fighter who doubles as hired muscle when the lawn mowing business runs into trouble. Willing suspension of disbelief carries us through: it does make for an entertaining story.
Paulsen has been awarded the prestigious Newbery Award for fiction three times, and many of his books are now considered light classics.
Lawn Boy is all fun, without sacrifice: a terrific new light read by a distinguished author.