BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER by Barbara O’Connor

I passed this book by in the library on a couple of trips. But I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. The bullfrog in the foreground just wouldn’t go away, and it underscored the presence of the two kids but in the mini-sub behind it. All a reader really wants to be is intrigued, either by the premise or the characters in a story. A really good cover will elicit the same response.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester is a delightful title as well, and I really liked the way it stands out on the cover. I was mystified about two kids in a mini-sub to begin with, but I had no idea why they would out a hunting bullfrogs. Mini-subs belong in oceans and bullfrogs belong in ponds. You can see my confusion. Maybe even felt the same confusion when you looked at the cover.

I really enjoyed the story overall. It’s much more simple than I thought it would be, and the kids – Owen and his friends – were much more rural than I’d expected them to be. As far as I can remember, there was no mention of video games or mobile devices or even computers throughout the whole book. Yet, the book’s plot revolves around a mini-sub. To me, it didn’t quite fit.

This book is for younger readers. The sentences are short and tight and read easily. With the short length, this would be a good book for the third and fourth grade elementary school teachers to read to their kids, or for parents to read to their children.

Owen is just an average kid who has managed to capture the most gorgeous bullfrog in all of Carter, Georgia. He promptly names him Tooley Graham for reasons that he soon explains. All you have to do to get kids primed for this book is simply read the first page to them. I was blown away, trapped between hilarity and being grossed out. But I was definitely interested.

Getting to the mini-sub takes a long time. The author develops Owen and the rest of the kid cast, their world, and the problems Owen faces. I can relate really well with Owen and his world, but I’m afraid that most young readers today might not. Most of the kids today don’t prowl the woods or ponds the way that Owen and his friends do. And the under-pond adventure was much too short for my tastes.

One of the other major aspects of the plot was Owen’s relationship with Viola, his next door neighbor and constant pain. I liked the way the gender rivalry went, and I like the fact that Viola stood her ground and proved to be a valuable asset to the boys.

I haven’t read any books by this author before this one. However, I’m going to look her up in the library now because I enjoyed the story. I am curious to think what young readers will think of this novel. The absence of a computer in the overall story gave a lot more weight to Viola and the necessity of keeping her involved. In the story, Owen has no clue about how to pilot the mini-sub, and it isn’t until a dog digs up the manual that he learned how to operate the underwater vessel. If he had had a computer, he would have been able to figure out a lot more about the mini-sub.

Still, the book offers a grand adventure and a few tugs at heart strings along the way.

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One Response to “THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER by Barbara O’Connor”

  1. Hello! My name is Anibal Mackie and I live in Farmville,VA. I have read your blog post about THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER by Barbara O’Connor | BookHound and I want to say that I am quite impressed with your professionalism on the subject!


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