Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester Review

Book talk:  Tooley is the biggest, slimiest bullfrog in Graham pond and he belongs to Owen Jester.  It took him weeks, but Owen finally caught him and after all that effort little miss know-it-all Viola wants him to let Tooley go.  Who does she think she is?  Viola may think she knows everything, but she doesn't.  She doesn't know how Owen is going to build the perfect cage for Tooley so he will be happy.  She doesn't know that Owen and his friends have a code word to use when they want to get away from her.  Most importantly, she doesn't know that one night as Owen was listening to the clack-clack-clack of the train tracks he heard something else: a thud, followed by a tumble, tumble, tumble.  Owen doesn't know what it is, but he and Travis and Stumpy are going to find it.  And one thing's for sure--when they do find whatever fantastic thing fell off that train they are NOT going to share it with Viola.

 Rocks my socks: I love how Owen's relationship with Viola develops from hating her for always being right to recognizing what she has to offer and collaborating with her and eventually growing to respect and value her.  The voice of the narrator sounds authentic and he has a way of personifying his emotions that I love: For example "Owen's disappointment swirled around inside him and then settled with a heavy thunk in the pit of his stomach." He also describes his concern for Tooley as something 'niggling' him throughout the story until he is finally moved to do what he thinks is right.  The narration is tight and makes frequent use of paragraph and chapter breaks to mark the passing of time and speed the story along.  This occasionally leads to wonderful combinations like chapter 17 ending with "There is now way she's going to go down there in those woods and help us." and chapter 18 beginning with "'I got Jarvis's hacksaw,' Viola said when she stepped out of the woods into the clearing. 'I decided to come help y'all, after all.'"

Rocks in my socks: The characters other than Viola and Owen aren't really developed and there's occasional hints of an interesting story around characters like Owen's sick grandfather and Viola's mother that are never explored.  Although the plot does move at a fast pace there isn't much that actually happens which leads to a rather flat climax and an ending that was a bit too neat for my liking.

Every book its reader: This lazy summer book makes a perfect lazy summer read.  Kids who spend their summers playing outside will find it easy to relate to these characters and kids who spend the summer indoors will enjoy living vicariously through Owen.  It's not action-packed, but it is a quick, easy read with a light, easy tone and a hint of humor that keeps you reading.  I'd say the reading level puts it at 3rd and 4th grade but the content has appeal to and would be appropriate for younger audiences as a read aloud.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor

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