Starred Review BCCB
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.
O'Connor has perfect pitch in this comic adventure…
The New York Times
"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.)
New York Times Book Review
O'Connor has perfect pitch with this comic adventure, which ends with a happy resolution everyone, even the frog, can live with.
STARRED review BCCB
O'Connor masterfully twists the two plot threadsOwen's gradual realization that Tooley must be released, and the children's Fitzcarraldo-like mission to move the submarine through brush to pondinto a fully convincing tale pitched perfectly to the upper elementary grades.
With a quiet sensitivity, O'Connor explores the effects of unemployment and relocating and the joys of both longtime companions and new, unexpected friendships. Filled with charm and wonder, this finely crafted novel reminds readers of the mysteries to be found in childhood and the outdoors.
…the story is smoothly written, the secret is ingenious and believable, and who can resist a frog named Tooley Graham?
Children's Literature - Vicki Foote
Owen Jester does have a fantastic secret that leads to an exciting predicament. Owen is a young boy who is living with his parents and his grandfather at his grandfather's house in Georgia. They live near a pond where Owen catches a frog and names him Tooley. Owen and his friends struggle to build a cage for Tooley so that he can enjoy the pond without getting away. Then one night Owen hears a noise and he thinks that something has fallen from a train that passes near their house. He and his friends search for it while trying to keep away from their noisy neighbor, Viola. They find a box that turns out to be a small submarine built for two people. Owen is concerned about Tooley's health and reluctantly decides to let him go from the cage and have the freedom of the pond. Then Owen and the boys put the submarine together with the help of Viola who turns out to know a lot about submarines. Eventually Owen and Viola go underwater in the sub, and Owen is able to see Tooley swimming around and looking very happy. After a few more issues, there is a pleasant ending. A lively pace, interesting problems, and fun adventures make this a good story for both boys and girls. Reviewer: Vicki Foote
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Owen Jester believes his summer is off to a great start when he captures the biggest, best bullfrog in Carter, GA. He names it Tooley Graham and builds a cage for it in his bedroom. When Tooley starts to look a bit sick, Owen's know-it-all neighbor, Viola, insists that he put the frog back into the pond or it will die. One night, Owen hears something fall off a train passing the tracks in the woods behind his house. The boy and his two friends discover a two-person submarine known as a Water Wonder 4000 hidden in the brush. Owen tries to keep this fantastic secret hidden from his family, and especially from nosey Viola, at least until he can take the sub for a ride. But when Viola discovers the secret, Owen must include her in the plans. Barbara O'Connor's entertaining, sometimes humorous summer adventure (Farrar, 2010) about friendship and discovery is narrated by Noah Galvin. He does a superb job of creating unique voices for each character, making this a fantastic listening adventure.—Amy Joslyn, Fairport Public Library, NY
"The short, sad life of Tooley Graham was over," doesn't sound like a happy conclusion but is pitch perfect in this short, simple and endearing middle-grade novel that follows on the heels of The Small Adeventure of Popeye and Elvis (2009). Owen Jester is focused on several things during his summer vacation: finding a way to keep his trapped "pet" bullfrog alive and happy, locating what fell off a train with a loud crash! one night and keeping annoying next-door neighbor Viola—who knows everything—out of their business as he schemes with his two best friends, Stumpy and Travis. The discovery of a sleek, red two-person submarine in the brush alongside the tracks changes everything. Can three young, girl-hating boys and a willing and very able—and tolerant--girl move a submarine to Graham Pond? If they manage that, will they ever be able to pilot it? In the heat of a languid Georgia summer vacation, in the dreams of irrepressible youth, anything is possible. O'Connor has spun a lovely read that perfectly captures the schemes and plans of school-age kids in the long days of summer. (Fiction. 8-11)