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The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester Hardcover – August 31, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

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? Grades 4-6. --Michael Cart
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374368503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374368500
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,000,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Barbara O'Connor was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She draws on her Southern roots to write award-winning books for children in grades 3 to 6. Her awards include the Parents Choice Gold and Silver Award, American Library Association Notable Books, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, School Library Journal Best Books, and Kirkus Best Books. Her books have been nominated for children's choice awards in 38 states and voted as a state favorite by children in South Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, and South Dakota. When Barbara isn't busy writing, she travels to schools to conduct writing workshops with young students, works in her garden, walks with her dogs, and thinks up ways to avoid cooking.

Customer Reviews

She read it in two nights and loved it!
Kindle Customer
The only girls in the story were Owen's enemies, but I think girls would still like the rest of the book.
Y. R. Wu
I highly recommend this book for your kids.
iReview

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By samfl on June 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have no idea what these other reviewers are thinking. This book is NOT a good book for children. The main character spends his days holding a frog hostage in a cage and makes fun of the girl that tells him he's going to kill it doing so. But she's the idiot according to him. Then he and his friends find an item that fell off a train and don't report it - they keep it - um, stealing? Then they need to move it, and it's heavy, so they STEAL some pipes from a construction site to do so. They spend the whole book insulting the little girl next door because she wears glasses - oh and because she's smart. They criticize the neighbor that yells at them for trespassing in her yard. The main character constantly criticizes his grandfather's housekeeper that tries to keep him in line, as his parents clearly can't. Then at the end, they get caught with the sub they stole, and I think they're going to learn a lesson. Nope - the submarine company that owned the sub they stole came to meet them and the parents let them be ungrounded for the day so they can put their picture in the paper!!!!! Congrats to you smart kids for stealing my sub!!!???? I had to stop at least 20 times in this very short book to say to my child "You know that's stealing, right?" or similar statements. Do not buy this book. It shows children being rewarded for bad behavior and showing disrespect to adults with no consequences.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Y. R. Wu TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
(Book review by Verena Wu, age 7 1/2)

"The fantastic secret of Owen Jester"

The fantastic secret is on the cover - a submarine called the World Wonder 4000 was supposed to be sent
to Florida but it fell off the train in Owen Jester's backyard.

This is a really good adventure book, and is also a friendship book. I'd say that if "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a "10" then this book is a "12". I'm planning to read it again. I think my dad should read it too.

I liked this book a lot, it was really detailed. Even though there weren't any pictures in the book, the author described things so well that I could imagine everything very clearly. The only girls in the story were Owen's enemies, but I think girls would still like the rest of the book.

(Her father) There you have it, I guess I'm going to have to pick this one up and see if I agree with the 12 star rating! Disclosure: we received this through Amazon Vine, if you found this review helpful, please let us know!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The premise of this book sure is a cute. But that's about where the enticement ends. This adventure takes us into the deep South where 3 young boys, and Viola, who just loves to annoy them, have a summer adventure. After they find what falls off of a train passing through at night, Owen, the lead character, realizes that he has to befriend Viola, even though he hates the fact that she acts like a know-it-all. And, she actually does. Then, she teaches him how to (SPOILER ALERT) drive a submarine in their town pond after they've stolen it from the train.

Definitely a story kids under the age of 10 will like but you might want to be concerned about all the disrespect for girls, parents and authority that is in this book too. It is clean, no bad language or witchcraft, vampires, etc. (whew, finally!). Just wish the author would promote respect for each other and parents in her books. I'd look elsewhere for a better example to set for your child.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Maynard VINE VOICE on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book had potential. The cover is what drew me. I like frogs and submarines, so I was hopeful this would be a fun adventure.

This book is for a young crowd. Owen Jester is on summer break in Georgia and hs family needed to move in with his Grandfather. He finds a bullfrog and...something else.

Though the characters were developed to a degree and the setting was well-laid and enjoyable, I felt the story didn't accomplish much in so many pages. Other people seem to like the book, so you may too, but it was a little boring for our clan. About a hundred pages in, I felt like the plot wasn't going anywhere profound; that is to say, we didn't do much in a hundred pages. When I did get to the end, I thought to myself, "That was it? That was the end of the story?"

I do not put it in the "classic" category. It was fine to read, but we probably won't give it a second turn.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cathe VINE VOICE on September 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a sweet story about a young boy, Owen Jester, trying to deal with the move to his grandfather's house. Two big things happen to him in this story: 1) he catches the world's most beautiful bullfrog and 2) he discovers the mysterious and wonderful thing that fell off the train that runs behind his grandfather's house. How he deals with these two events, make up the course of the book.

Let me start by saying that I love Barbara O'Connor's writing. How to Steal a Dog is a book I love and recommend often to my elementary school students. I was not that thrilled with this book, however. The first 7 or 8 chapters were repetitive . . . Owen worried about frog, Owen and friends trying to get rid of know-it-all Viola. While the short chapters and easy reading seem like they should appeal to reluctant readers, not much happens in his book until the last couple of chapters. It's a sweet story but I'm not sure if young boys (who this book seems to be geared toward) will stick with it. Hopefully, I'm wrong.
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