This is a quiet story that focuses on friendship, getting along with others, and a small mystery.
Chapter book, fiction
Interest level: grades 3-5
4 out of 5 stars
Owen Jester is the main character in this story, and he inhabits a fairly small, contained world. He lives in Carter, Georgia, and spends most of his time with his two close friends, Travis and Stumpy. The three friends try to avoid the annoying girl next door, Viola, who thinks she knows everything. The characters in the story are written in a way that is real and genuine. I couldn’t help but root for Owen Jester.
Owen and his friends spend time at the pond behind their house, exploring the railroad tracks, and hanging out in the hay loft of Owen’s barn. They aren’t supposed to be going to any of those places, but the lure for the boys is stronger than the fear of getting in trouble.
One night, as Owen lies in bed, he listens to the steady sound of the train that passes each night. Except on this night, Owen hears other sounds…a thud, the crack of wood, and a tumble, tumble, tumble sound. The plot of the story has Owen focusing on two things — the giant bullfrog that Owen caught and named Tooley, and trying to figure out what the strange sound was.
There is some action as the boys search for whatever made the sounds in the night, but for the most part, the story focuses more on the schemes and plans that the boys concoct. The action is contained to a few locations and only the few main characters. There is lots going on, but in a subtle way.
This story would make a good read aloud, with lots of opportunities to discuss what motivates characters to act in certain ways, and to note the changes characters undergo throughout the story.