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|Fantastic secret of Owen Jester|
Author: O'Connor, Barbara
After Owen captures an enormous bullfrog and has to release it, he and two friends try to use a small submarine that fell from a passing train to search for the frog in a pond while avoiding nosy Viola.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.70
Points: 4.0 Quiz: 139124
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 4.70
Points: 7.0 Quiz: 50536
Common Core Standards
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → 3.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → 3.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → 3.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 6 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Kirkus Reviews (+) (07/15/10)
School Library Journal (+) (10/01/10)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (10/10)
The Hornbook (11/10)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 10/01/2010 Owen Jester lives in a not-much-happenin’ little corner of Georgia, where tending his freshly captured bullfrog, Tooley, is about as interesting as things are likely to get this summer. He and his buddies Travis and Stumpy have all kinds of plans for securing Tooley’s comfort: they’ll build him bigger digs; they’ll partially submerge his chicken-wire mansion in the pond, where fresh food will swim through his cage; they’ll do just about anything but set him free. Viola, a pestering age-mate who lives nearby, incessantly turns up with unwanted advice, eliciting the predictable responses of taunting and evasion from the boys. But Owen quietly begins to suspect that Viola may often be as correct as she is annoying, and when he discovers the Water Wonder 4000, a small recreational submarine that rolled off a train en route from a Canadian manufacturer to a Florida resort, bookish Viola is the one who can actually strategize how to get the thing to the pond for a joyride before adults put the inevitable kibosh on their adventure. O’Connor masterfully twists the two plot threads—Owen’s gradual realization that Tooley must be released, and the children’s Fitzcarraldo-like mission to move the submarine through brush to pond—into a fully convincing tale pitched perfectly to the upper elementary grades. Any reader who has ever dragged home an injured bird or captured a lightning bug in a jar will fully empathize with Owen’s struggle to overcome his stubborn, misguided sense of ownership. Tension is palpable as O’Connor meticulously traces Tooley’s physical decline, and Owen’s decision to do right by the bullfrog is far from a sure thing. While Owen wrestles with his conscience, the guys face the four-pronged challenge of submarine transport: formulating a workable plan, gathering materials, keeping their efforts secret from adults, and working cooperatively to execute the mission. And that means swallowing buckets of pride in admitting that Viola knows a thing or three about hacksaws, submersibles, and the load-moving strategies of Egyptian pyramid builders. Owen comes a long way over the summer, especially in learning to tap into the resources of those around him. O’Connor blesses him with a circle of family and friends who can offer him just what he needs at the moment he’s open to receive it. His grandfather, bedridden after what appears to have been a stroke, cannot spout wisdom or advise, but his soft grunts, lopsided smiles, and slightly raised hands provide the encouragement Owen needs to reach his own decision to set Tooley free. Owen’s parents and the grouchy housekeeper, Earlene, stand quietly in the background (well, quite noisily in Earlene’s case), giving Owen space to work out his issues, but ready to reel him in with gentle discipline when he runs amok. Travis and Stumpy, who initially do little more than echo Owen’s aversion to Viola (“‘Go away!’ Owen yelled. . . . ‘Mind your own business,’ Travis snapped. ‘Yeah!’ Stumpy hollered”), prove unexpectedly adept at brainstorming, and after Viola blackmails her way on board their project, they move haltingly from No way/No how, to grudging respect, to total group enthusiasm as the Water Wonder 4000 makes its maiden voyage. If the characters are familiar in their nyah-nyah banter and determined but rough-edged work ethic, the setting may be eye-opening for many readers. O’Connor fashions a geography of childhood freedom in which kids enjoy the time, space, and relative privacy in which to learn by trial and error how to master their surroundings and expand their relationships. Here young naggers, bumblers, skeptics, pragmatists, and dreamers can figure out how to pull in harness together without the noise of grown-up intervention. For many overprotected and overscheduled children, Owen’s world offers a glimpse of almost unimaginable liberty, and they will surely enjoy visiting a laid-back place where perfectly good kids announce, “I’m going outside,” and perfectly responsible parents reply, “Be back before dark.” (See p. 88 for publication information.) Elizabeth Bush, Reviewer - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 10/01/2010 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 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 09/15/2010 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? - Copyright 2010 Booklist.