cover image The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

Barbara O'Connor, FSG/Foster, $15.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-374-36850-0

"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.)