The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor

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Luckily for me, 2011 began with a winner. The first book I read this year is Barbara O’Connor’s The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.  Over the past few years, O’Connor has written a number of charming and adventurous novels for the 3rd through 6th grade reader, and this one is terrific. In fact, the reason Owen Jester moved to the top of my to-read pile is that it was named one of School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2010. 

Owen Jester lives in Carter, Georgia and at the beginning of the book he has caught a big bullfrog that he decides to name Tooley Graham. But that’s just the beginning. Soon after catching Tooley, Owen hears the sound of something falling off a train which turns out to be a submarine – the Water Wonder 4000…and Owen can’t wait to share his secret with his two best friends. Of course, the boys want to put the submarine in the water, but when Owen’s nosy neighbor, Viola, learns what they are up to, she wants to be part of their plans. It’s a really fun story, but it also feels old fashioned in the best sense of the word. Owen and his friends are outdoors rather than playing video games or texting one another.  Actually, I felt like Owen’s adventures could have belonged to Opie from the Andy Griffith show!

Spending a few hours with Owen and Viola was a gentle and delightful way to begin 2011…

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4 thoughts on “The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor

  1. I am doing a 3-5th grade book club on this book,a nd I was wondering if anyone has any teaching plans, or discussion guides on this book. I have been very unsuccessful on my research.

    • Hi Briana,
      I just checked Barbara O’Connor’s web site (as I’m sure you have) and checked what teacher’s resources are available there. As you know, there are teacher’s guides to several of her other novels, but not Owen Jester. I think it’s because the book is so new – there hasn’t been much time to create educational resources. One thing that might be fun is to have the kids write a story about what they “found” while out exploring – imaginary, of course. They could draw pictures of their treasures if you don’t want to assign writing. It’s a fun book – I bet the kids will love it.

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