Which New Release Are You (& Your Kids Most Excited About?)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shhhhhh, Go Away Mommy's Reading Now

I get some of my very best book recommendations from teachers.  This should come as no surprise.  Most of us normal humans could not handle a class full of 28 rowdy children for an hour let alone an entire school day for an entire school year.  Special people with special super powers and an innate ability to understand children are teachers.  They get kids, they love kids and they know what they like. 

Recently, a third grade teacher and I were swapping our favorites for young readers.  I told her about Kate Messner's Capture The Flag an exciting adventure story about the theft of The Star-Spangled Banner from the National History Museum and the three kids who manage to find it again.  It's an exciting mystery with a little history thrown in for good measure.  I also told her about The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick.  This is another adventure but has some fantastical elements as well.  A brother is on a mission to find his missing sister.  A zoo, with a magical twist and some pretty amazing animals, is the backdrop of this book.  Both are fun, exciting and well written. 

In return she told me about The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor.  Boy-oh-boy am I glad she did!  This amazing book knocked my socks off.  I picked it up one afternoon when I had an half hour or so to kill.  Almost two hours later I was still reading.  My poor kids were starving.  They were begging me for dinner and I couldn't stop reading.  I sent them away with a cheese stick and some fruit.  Dinner would have to wait until I'd read every last page. Luckily for them I'm a pretty fast reader and the book isn't very long.  Eventually they were fed a reasonably well balanced meal and sent off to bed but I was still thinking about Owen and his fantastic secret. 

Owen is a boy whose world has gone a bit sideways.  His grandfather is ill.  His father has lost his job.  He's had to move out of his house and into his grandfather's house.  Fortunately, the house is close to his old one so he still has his two best friends, Travis and Stumpy, to keep him company.  The house also comes with a nice big pond out back.  A pond where Owen manages to catch the "biggest, greenest, slimiest, most beautiful bullfrog."  Unfortunately, the house also comes with a housekeeper who doesn't particularly like children and a know-it-all girl named Viola for a next door neighbor. 

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester is about all of these characters and one truly fantastic secret.  I can't tell you what the secret is - you'll just have to read it yourself.  But I can tell you that it falls off a train in the middle of the night.  Owen is the only one to hear it fall.  It's a story about adventure.  It's a story that uses creative problem solving and great teamwork.  It's a book about kids being kids making mistakes and learning from them.  It's about responsibility, ingenuity and understanding.  What falls off the train isn't just Owen's secret.  Owen needs the help of all of his friends, even terrible Viola, to keep this secret and to pull off a truly fantastic adventure.  I cannot be clearer than this: Read this book.  Maybe just make sure you feed the kids first.

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