Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire (Nat Amoore, Puffin)
In her first children’s book, Nat Amoore has created such a likeable heroine in Tess Heckleton, entrepreneur and life advice-giver, that her unlikely adventures and somewhat unlikely personality are entirely believable. Imperfect but well-meaning Tess is only 10, but she’s wise beyond her years and determined to make money. But when she accidentally finds herself with a million dollars, she isn’t quite sure what to do. It turns out that it’s hard to spend money—even on good things—when you’re 10. She enlists the help of her best friend Toby, but largely ignores her loving parents. Cue rollicking adventures and the familiar trope of kids getting themselves into trouble and having to get themselves out of it with help from an improbable source. Amoore brings a delightful originality to her rendering of the kid’s own adventure. This freshness includes Tess’ tips—life lessons that aren’t didactic but are pieces of up-front advice, from ‘use Google’ to ‘your people are everything’, ‘learn from your mistakes’ and ‘own your decisions’. Amoore has carefully crafted Tess’ narrative voice and sets up the denouement perfectly. This is lively but thoughtful middle-grade fiction that kids aged 8–12 will race through with great pleasure.
Lorien Kaye has been writing about books and the book industry for more than 20 years