Money, he wrote


Bochner with a totally awesome collectible — model trains.

Photo by Daniel R. Burke


At the ripe old age of 19, Arthur Bochner (C’04) is technically no longer a child author.

But once upon a time, he published two books, appeared on “The Tonight Show” and “Oprah” and went on two 10-city book tours, all before entering high school. These are hard things for people to forget about.

So Arthur Bochner, former child author, still submits cheerfully to interviews about his unusual youth and about the books about money and business for kids which made him a star when he was 11 years old.

Bochner came to writing through his mother, who has written more than 20 books on financial planning for adults. But in 1992, when her publisher asked her to write a book for kids, she balked.

“Do you know anyone else who can write it? they asked her,” said Bochner. “Well, no, she said. ‘Don’t you have a son?’ ‘Yes, but he’s 10!’ She asked me if I wanted to do it anyway, and I said yes.”

What influenced him to agree to the project? “They said I could get on TV.”

They were right.

“The Totally Awesome Money Book for Kids & Their Parents” came out in 1993 to an explosion of interest. It sold around 25,000 copies. The National Association of Librarians gave the book an Award for Teen Readers. Morning talk shows couldn’t get enough of the 11-year-old financial planning expert who had been investing since age 9.

Bochner published a second book, “The Totally Awesome Business Book for Kids & Their Families,” in 1995 and took it on another nationwide book tour.

The touring and publicity carried obvious boons, like the night at “The Tonight Show” when Bochner met Tom Hanks.

But the unexpected payoff of the whole endeavor, Bochner said, was developing a closer relationship with his busy mother. He and his mother co-wrote both books, alternating chapters. Mom fact-checked her son’s information, and Arthur made sure his mother’s writing was on a kid’s reading level.

“During the first two years of my life, we were living in New Jersey and she was working in New York, so I didn’t see her much,” he said. “She did seminars and was away a lot. It wasn’t like, Mommy’s never home. But doing the book and going on tour gave me an opportunity to spend a lot more time with her.”

Last November, Bochner released a money-savvy guide to collecting valuables called “Things: Collecting For Kids & Their Parents.” But this time around, he published it through the small press his parents own and decided to take a pass on the promotional machine. Between his life at Penn, his annual congressional internships and mid-year Republican fundraising events, he keeps busy enough.

The political science major loves his classes. “Every class I’ve had this year has been with a full professor. They’re all accessible. They’re there for you.”

He loves being in the University Scholars program. “The honors program makes this place seem very small.”

He loves the Philomathean Society, an intellectual organization he belongs to. “The people in this society are incredible. You have all these conversations you thought you’d never have.”

The years have made Bochner modest about the accomplishments of his youth. “It’s not Proust or anything, these books,” he said. “It’s not scholarship. It’s not literature. But it is very, very cool.”

Originally published on May 17, 2001