Monday 1 July 2019

The Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire

The Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore (Puffin Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9780143796374

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

While trampolining in her backyard, Tess Heckelson sees many people coming and going to her next-door neighbour Scotty’s house. She’s out the back, too, when the police converge on the house: at the same time Scotty chucks a bag full of cash over the back fence into her garden. This is how she (and her best friend Toby) become overnight ‘millionaires.’ Tess and Toby, who are entrepreneurial and previously worked on way to become rich quickly, now devise ways to spend the money.

Told in first person present tense, the story is fast-acting with splashes of humour. When Tess’s diabetic sister Olivia is hospitalised, Tess and Toby decide to donate money to charity. They buy gifts for children in hospital, arousing the interest of the shopkeeper but manage to wiggle their way out explaining why they are carrying wads of cash.

Tess and Toby then offer 50 children money to go around town to buy Lego. It’s to build a shelter for Kathy, an old woman who lives in the park. Using a debit card on an account Kathy opens for them they begin donating money to charity. But of course, this raises red flags. Things take a turn for the worse when Scotty suddenly appears, demanding his money. But the bag of cash is missing…

Nat Amoore introduces many elements to this story which are rarely raised in books for children for this age: homelessness, house dads, married gay mothers, adoption from Bolivia, diabetes, frequent references to pieces of music, giving to charity, and of course kids with lots of money (who find it difficult to spend). Throughout the book, too, are break-out boxes of ‘Tips’ offering advice such as ‘Have goals’ and ‘Always listen to your best friend’s advice.’

This novel is ideal for readers aged 9 to 12 who like a story with dramatic turns, excitement and problems with what seem like impossible solutions.

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