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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*It's a Money Thing!: A Girl's Guide to Managing Money* by Women's Foundation of California, illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas- young adult book review  
It's a Money Thing!: A Girl's Guide to Managing Money
by Women's Foundation of California, illustrated by Susan Estelle Kwas
Grades 7+ 100 pages Chronicle April 2008 Spiral bound    

Originally, I began this review several months ago, but serendipity intervened and I didn’t finish it. When I picked the book up again recently, my review of the guide has come out much more favorably. (This makes me wonder how many other times my mind could be changed by mellowing after a bad first impression.)

At first reading, I was bothered by the informal “girl” language and number of references to shopping and consumerism in general. Maybe those issues are partly my hang-ups or I was overreacting, because there didn’t seem to be as many references the second time through.

I still think the guide could be improved by being a little less informal. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that teen girls who are interested enough to pick up this book do not need to be so razzle-dazzled by cartoons, red and green type, and shopping references. Let’s give these girls more credit. This guide/informal journal-format book, although plugged as being geared toward teenagers in general, is really sophisticated enough to be mostly for older teens.

On the other hand, I love the idea of a book about money for teens. I am not sure why a separate book for girls is necessary in this genre. Maybe it was so that the authors, a California-based nonprofit that seeks to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls, could make reference to shopping and flirting. The preface sounds all the right themes: knowledge is power, and it’s never too early to learn about money. I did not learn much about money when I was a teenager (except that I wanted more of it), and I still do not know as much about money and the financial world as I would like as a 40-something mom and former lawyer. If someone had told me when I was 15 that if I invested $60 a month for 40 years I would be a millionaire, maybe I would have paid more attention (p. 62). (And would be well on my way to millionaire-hood.)

As a teenager, I remember being mostly interested in making enough money to go to the movies with friends. This guide supplies thorough coverage in chapters about starting a business. The first such chapter, seemingly more for younger teenagers explains the start-up business process from brainstorming to launch calendar. It describes a range of business ideas for teens and invites interaction by providing space for journaling about business ideas as a way to jumpstart a teen’s potential business by providing space to jot ideas. The sample budget (where I was always stymied in my money-making quests) helps girls to be realistic about their money-making ventures. The follow-up chapter about business start-up is geared toward “girls” 12 years after their first business venture, and it gives a much more sophisticated discussion of growing a business and taking a company public. It also plants the idea of the successful businessperson giving back to the community.

More good information is loaded into Chapter 4 about lifestyle and budgets. Remember when you got your first paycheck and wondered why it was so much less than you thought it would be with lots of acronyms you didn’t understand? This chapter explains paycheck deductions, such as FICA, and discusses budgets, with examples of how different lifestyles translate into a range of spending patterns. It is a reality check and can be a downer for those just starting out making more money than they ever had but paying for housing, transportation, and other necessities for the first time.

Of special interest and sophistication are chapters about saving and investing. Given the fluctuations and potential future nuances of the economy these days, it’s a plus to have a basic understanding of how money can work for you. These ideas of saving and retirement may provide yet another reality check for early twenty-somethings to help them at least think about planning for the future, with the realization that there are real opportunities for those who start early at implementing sound financial practices. In particular, Chapter 6, “Understanding the Stock Market,” describes the stock market and its workings in clear detail. It defines the many terms needed for a basic understanding, tracks a sample investment game, and provides tools for researching companies and checking stocks and strategies for investing.

The book contains solid information about money and money management, and specifically about starting a business, making a budget, and the functions of the stock market, but it misses some basics - for example, there is hardly a mention of regular old banks and checking accounts. The authors also spend a chapter on the various ways of giving back to the community either by volunteering or giving money to organizations or even businesses who then invest it in various good works. However, it fails to mention that much direct giving to charity can qualify you for a tax deduction. It also makes the prospect of making oodles of money seem relatively inevitable. What if “the good life” doesn’t come knocking? There is not even a mention of this possibility or the notion of working hard to make your money.

I learned a few things from this guide about money, or more precisely money management, that someone my age should have learned long ago. Obviously this points up the need for a book on this topic to enlighten girls and kids in general about how to make a budget, how the stock exchange works, and what deductions will be taken from your paycheck. In fact, these topics incorporated some of the best information in this journal-type handbook to money.

The guide also provides a very helpful chapter about where to find more information and lists websites, books, a glossary, and index. The American Girl’s Guide to Money: How to Make It, Save It, and Spend It (American Girl, 2006) is a much more basic outline that seems more focused toward younger teens. It's a Money Thing! is a good start at supplying more comprehensive information, but it needs to make sure to cover all the bases and decide who it wants to inform.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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