Reviewed by Renée Korver-Michan
The Bullies of Wall Street and I got off on the wrong footing. From the title and description on the back, I expected a book for adults concerning the financial crisis in 2008 in the States. Well, I was half right. Although it is not clear from the text on the back cover, this book was clearly written with a young audience in mind. After adjusting my expectations to child-mode I read on.
The book is built up in three parts. The first part consists of stories on how the crisis affected families inspired by real life situations. The second part concerns the mistakes made by banks during the crisis, and what was done about it by various parties (including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which author Sheila Blair chaired during the crisis years). The last part is only 14 pages long and reads more like an epilogue. It concerns the author’s views on what should be done and how young people can help prevent a future financial crisis from occurring.
As stated earlier, the book was clearly written for children, although the specific age of the intended audience is unclear as the author is a bit inconsistent in her tone of writing, sometimes skipping over things that seem complicated (at least to me) and sometimes explaining things in an overtly childish manner. The example stories in the first part all end a bit too well for my taste and in some cases they are downright unlikely, like in the story of Matt and his family finding a loving home for family dog Atilla, the elderly incontinent German Shepard with bad hearing and bad knees.
I do like the way the story was built up throughout the book, it feels right when reading and has a clear start and finish to it. Another positive point evident throughout the narrative is Sheila Bair’s genuine desire to explain to children affected by the financial crisis why it occurred and why it had to happen to them – almost like how a mother would explain it.
Lastly, I found myself wondering how big of a target group this book will have in the Netherlands. The book only briefly mentions the situation for European banks during the crisis. If your child (your English-reading child, that is) has an assignment on the financial crisis in the States, this book would be a good source of information. Otherwise, although well-intended, I cannot see it appearing on a lot of Christmas lists (or Sinterklaas lists for that matter).
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At Renée’s suggestion, we’ve added “for younger readers” to the title.