Reviews for Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

Booklist Reviews 2010 September #2
Owen Jester has captured the biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog ever to be seen in Carter, Georgia. He has named it Tooley Graham, and he has built a swell cage for it in his bedroom. Owen is very happy. But Tooley is not. In fact, according to Owen's snoopy, know-it-all neighbor, Viola, the frog is downright sad. But this is not Owen's fantastic secret. That arrives the night he hears something fall off a passing train, and when he discovers what it is, he has a genuine, bona fide fantastic secret, which may not be revealed here. Suffice it to say, it launches an adventure involving Owen, his two best friends, and (shudder) Viola. O'Connor's latest--with her signature southern setting--is diverting, though it lacks suspense, and at times the characters seem less strongly realized than in her other works. Nevertheless, the story is smoothly written, the secret is ingenious and believable, and who can resist a frog named Tooley Graham?

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Spring
Owen Jester finds the best salvage ever: a submarine built for two, perfect for launching in Graham Pond. To figure out how to retrieve and navigate the sub, Owen needs help from his neighbor, the irritating, nosy, but whip-smart Viola. O'Connor downplays the drama in this quiet story, allowing Owen the time and space necessary to make his own decisions. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #6
One night, right before falling asleep, Owen Jester hears the familiar clatter of the train passing on the tracks below his grandfather's house. Then another sound: a thud. With the help of his two best friends, Travis and Stumpy, Owen finds the best salvage ever: a submarine built for two, a Water Wonder 400, just perfect for launching in nearby Graham Pond. Earlier, Owen had captured a product of that pond, one Tooley Graham, "the biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog ever to be seen in Carter, Georgia." Although Owen wrestles with his plan to keep Tooley caged, there's little question that he will eventually release his prize. And little question as well that Travis and Stumpy can be of use retrieving, entering, and navigating the sub; for that, Owen needs to know how it works, and the best candidate for help is his neighbor, the irritating, nosey, but whip-smart Viola. Making one's own decisions is a tough proposition, but O'Connor downplays the drama in this quiet story, allowing readers and Owen the time and space necessary to evaluate his actions. betty carter Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 July #2

"The short, sad life of Tooley Graham was over," doesn't sound like a happy conclusion but is pitch perfect in this short, simple and endearing middle-grade novel that follows on the heels of The Small Adeventure of Popeye and Elvis (2009). Owen Jester is focused on several things during his summer vacation: finding a way to keep his trapped "pet" bullfrog alive and happy, locating what fell off a train with a loud crash! one night and keeping annoying next-door neighbor Viola—who knows everything—out of their business as he schemes with his two best friends, Stumpy and Travis. The discovery of a sleek, red two-person submarine in the brush alongside the tracks changes everything. Can three young, girl-hating boys and a willing and very able—and tolerant--girl move a submarine to Graham Pond? If they manage that, will they ever be able to pilot it? In the heat of a languid Georgia summer vacation, in the dreams of irrepressible youth, anything is possible. O'Connor has spun a lovely read that perfectly captures the schemes and plans of school-age kids in the long days of summer. (Fiction. 8-11)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 August #4

"Owen Jester tiptoed across the gleaming linoleum floor and slipped the frog into the soup." This opening line, like much of O'Connor's storytelling, strikes with lightning-fast characterization. Owen is a lovable troublemaker, whose prank involves his new catch, Tooley, "the biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog ever to be seen in Carter, Georgia." The main plot is Owen's discovery of the Water Wonder 4000, a two-person submarine that has fallen from a passing train. A gentle, old-fashioned adventure unfolds, as Owen and his friends scheme to keep the sub under the radar of adults--and neighborhood know-it-all Viola. As with O'Connor's The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis, this is the sweet stuff that children's summer days are made of (or used to be)--crafting grandiose plans, dodging adults' watchful eyes, and navigating the choppy waters of friendship. A rift occurs as Owen is torn between his Viola-hating friends and this helpful girl whose "irritating voice slithered up... and circled around Owen." O'Connor's funny, triumphant tale reveals the wisdom of listening to one's inner voice over the noise of one's peers. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 October

Gr 4-7--This well-crafted novel creates a charming mix of the commonplace and the extraordinary. On summer break, the likably mischievous Owen Jester has caught the biggest, best bullfrog in Carter, GA. However, "Tooley Graham" isn't healthy, saddling Owen with a nagging guilt about keeping his new pet captive. Meanwhile, after hearing a crash in the night, the boy discovers that a Water Wonder 4000--a two-passenger submarine that has fallen off a passing train. He tries to keep his secret from everyone but his friends, but nosy neighbor Viola isn't easily fooled. When she discovers the sub, the only way to keep her from alerting grown-ups is to let her in on the plan to take it for a spin. But there are problems. How will they move the heavy sub to the pond? Can they figure out how to drive it? And most importantly, how can Owen and his friends work with their archenemy? The plot is straightforward and efficient; the focus is always clear. Characterization is a strength--particularly memorable is Viola, who steals the show as an honest-to-goodness know-it-all. O'Connor deftly leads readers to ponder some big questions about friendship and disrupting the natural order. Beyond pleasure reading, the story lends itself nicely to use in a classroom setting. Appealing and authentic, this tale of summertime adventure will be a hit with readers year round.--Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI

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