All Different Kinds of Free, Craig R. Everett, Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune

Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune — Review and Giveaway

Thought for the day:

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” ~Jack Kerouac~

A gift for my writer friends:

 Here is a link I hope you will find valuable.
For blog writers, it’s important to not post photos that are not in the public domain. Here is a good site to find free photos –!+Mail

For my fabulous giveaway, the winner is Pat Kahn! (Cue the trumpets please!) Congratulations, Pat. I will be sending you a copy of All Different Kinds of Free. I’m sure you’ll love it. I have another giveaway for today, so stay tuned.

I was contacted a month or so ago by Craig R. Everett, a writer who teaches finances in the MBA program at Pepperdine University. He wanted to know if I might be willing to read and review his middle-grade novel. He said he had come up with the idea of teaching kids about money, building wealth through saving and investing, and the financial world with an urban/contemporary fantasy novel. It was an unusual premise, so I agreed.   
The book opens on a train with a murder of a young mother by a man with paranormal powers. The woman has left behind a six-month old baby who is swooped up by social services. This is a strange opening for a middle-grade novel, but intriguing.
Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune is a story of thirteen-year-old Toby, a seventh grader in Wallingford, Connecticut. He has just been removed from his ninth foster home and is on his way to his tenth. Toby, an orphan, has no information about his parents. The readers know what’s going on from the first chapter, but Toby has no idea. By the time Toby is in his new foster home, the only constants in his short life have been a caring social worker and two friends he has had since kindergarten – Marc, a computer geek, and Bidge, a super athletic girl Toby is just starting to notice is a girl, and not just a buddy.
Toby’s new foster home is okay. He has a room of his own and his foster parents seem nice, but his foster brother, Eddie, is pretty much like Eddie Haskell on steroids and makes it clear to Toby that Eddie sees his job as one of making Toby’s life a living hell. Since Eddie forces Toby to give up his allowance to Eddie, Toby ends up taking a job as a dog walker. (One of the most fun scenes in the book is how Toby and his two friends get Eddie under control.) Toby has to earn money because he has a plan for financial independence through saving and investing. The people for whom he works are a bit strange, but the readers immediately recognize the man as the killer from the first chapter.
Toby, who is a math whiz but a lazy student and who watches the financial channel like other kids watch the Cartoon Network, discovers that someone is sending him messages encoded in the ticker strip at the bottom of the screen during trading hours. Toby’s special gifts with math allow him to decode the messages, and he discovers whoever is sending the messages knows who his parents are and seems to have big plans for him.
Toby is invited to apply for Choate, a private school in Wallingford. He gets a perfect score on the math section of the entrance exam and is offered a full scholarship. He does have to work a few hours a week in a work-study program to cover his room and board, but is given a special job working for the guy for whom he walks dogs, Jack Leonard. (Remember that killer I mentioned?) Leonard is an investment expert and manages the investments of Choate’s endowment, in excess of $250 million. Toby is given a key to Leonard’s office and is told to read all the files and familiarize himself with the financial files of Choate. What Toby does discover is one piece of paper that doesn’t belong in the file and sends him on a quest.
“Toby felt confused and powerless, and he didn’t like that. Confused and powerless had been the story of his life. Five minutes ago, he had a good job and a bright future for the first time in his life. Now, once again, he was back to confused and powerless.”
When Toby tells Marc about what he has found, Marc does some research and discovers the reports on the account are being sent to a post office box that is in the name of Toby Gold! Toby has no idea about the post box or the account. After he has gone through all the files in Jack Leonard’s office at Choate, he decides he has to go through his files at the Leonard’s home. There he discovers a whole lot of other accounts, all of which lead back to that post office box in his name. The plot thickens. I don’t want to give up too much. You can read it for yourselves.
Kids can learn a lot about saving, investing, and finances by reading this book. There is a lot of mystery and humor, but it will take a fairly sophisticated middle-grade reader to stick with it. There are a few writing problems such as some jarring point of view shifts, but overall it’s well-written and interesting. The mystery is pretty compelling.
When the author contacted me, I asked him to sign the book and promised I would give it away when the review ran, so here is your chance to own a nice autographed hard-cover copy of Toby Gold and the Secret Fortune. Just leave a comment and I’ll put your name in the hat. Blog, link on Facebook, or Tweet a link to my blog and let me know for an extra entry.
On the book giveaway, this is for U.S. only. Sorry, but it would be too expensive for me to send books out of the country. But please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Remember, if you have trouble leaving a comment, click on the title of the post and it will give you just this post with a comments section on the bottom. Also, if you haven’t signed up by email, please do. Just look in the upper right-hand corner of this page, pop your email address in, and you will receive an email each time I put up a new post. Your information will not be shared with anyone.           

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