Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: The Charlatan's Boy by Jonathan Rogers

Grady is an orphan who has no idea where he came from. All of his memories are of travelling around with a man named Floyd, who supports them by coming up with quick scams or sideshows. When we first meet Grady they are in last stages of making money off of the Feechie (alleged swamp creatures) scare, in which Grady acts like a real live Feechie for all to see. Grady longs for knowledge of his background and a home, but is unable to really leave Floyd. Together they plan to revive the Feechie scare bigger and better than ever.

The Charlatan's Boy is in many ways several smaller stories about Grady and Floyd's travels that build up to a greater climatic finish. The book is utterly charming because Grady's voice is so completely likable. The language of the book is absorbing and the stories are funny, but Grady definitely tugs at your heartstrings with his search to belong. The many different people Floyd and Grady encounter on the road populate the book with a delightful cast of characters and situations. The dialect is consistent throughout as well and peppered with delightful phrases and language.

Andrew Peterson said something to the effect that it's Mark Twain meets C.S. Lewis and while I'm not sure about that due to my limited experience with Lewis's fiction, the book did remind me of Mark Twain with that same sort of imagination and adventure.

The book is sweet as well with so much heart, for example:
Except for Short Fronie, Barbary was the first person in this world who ever paid enough attention to say something true about me. Floyd only ever told me what he wanted me to hear, whatever worked in with his plans. But Barbary had looked at me and told me something I didn't know about myself. She had given me a name: friend.

And she was right. I was a born friend. And yet I had spent my whole life without a friend in this world. It was a sadness I had never let myself feel. Now that I felt it, I was afraid it was going to ruin me.

The central questions of Grady's life coupled with the fun antics of life on the road make The Charlatan's Boy a treat to savor and enjoy all the way up to the unexpected and delightful ending.

As a side note, for those looking for middle grade fiction for boys, look no further!

Rating: 4.25/5
Source of Book: Received from publisher for review
Publisher: Waterbrook


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