Owen Jester seems like a typical elementary school boy.  In Barbara O'Connor's The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, Owen feels stranded on the wrong side of town, away from his friends.  His family has moved in with his grandfather both to help out his grandfather, who is recovering from a stroke, and to help themselves out, since Owen's father has lost his job.  Viola, the nearby neighbor girl, is no substitute for Owen's friends--she suffers from being a smartypants and, well, from being a girl.  It's summertime, and Owen wants adventure.  And he ends up going to great depths -- pun intended -- to get it.

The strengths of this book are many.  I like that Owen struggles with the ethics of keeping the frog he has named Tooley, no matter how wonderful a cage he builds.  His moral dilemma would resonate with many children, I believe.  Owen also comes to question his initial assessments of Viola as well.  He begins to appreciate both her knowledge and her persistence.  He also shows a shy, but confessional relationship with his grandfather, who can't communicate much, but always shows that he is listening.

A bit more complicatedly, Owen also decides to have an adventure with the "fantastic secret" (a small submarine) that fell off the train BEFORE he notifies the company.  While that choice may strain adult safety issues and believability, the adventure is a necessary part of Owen's growth and a rite of passage.

I can think of a number of children in this age group who would enjoy reading this book.  It falls somewhere lower on the scale of difficulty, which might make it attractive to a more reluctant reader who would enjoy its entrancing adventure.