The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers, a review

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers
Published 2010 by Waterbrook, 305 pages
Genre: middle grade/young adult Christian fantasy

The main fantastic element in this Mark Twain-ish book is the setting. The setting is an island somewhere that sounds like a part of the American South. There cattle drovers and farmers work for their wages and then get fleeced by flim flam operators.  It seems less like fantasy to me than like supreme inventiveness.

By far the best thing about this book is the voice of the narrator, Grady.  He’s an orphan who sounds a lot like Huck Finn. Poor Grady has absolutely no idea what his true origin is, since he can’t trust the charlatan Floyd who raised him to tell the truth. The two of them tour the island with one confidence scheme after another, and some of the time Grady wishes he had a family and a village of his own to live in.

The first and most successful confidence scheme involved Grady pretending to be one of the Feechie folk, and charging admission to see him. But the islanders have stopped believing that the Feechie folk exist, so the lucrative scheme doesn’t work any more.  Grady and Floyd set out to make them fear the Feechie in order to revive the scam. That’s when things get more interesting. Feechie folk, by the way, are skinny little people who may or may not live in the marshes. Inciting Feechie fear involves inventing wind-powered moaning machines, and so on. A scare is born! It’s hilarious how gullible these simple folk are.

What do I think?

I am delighted with the character Grady, the orphan who doesn’t know what to think about himself.  He shares more than a voice with Huck Finn, also basically an orphan.  But the book lacked overarching suspense in the middle, as the tale went from obstacle to obstacle. The ending was satisfying and surprising, and I won’t tell you what it is!

The Christian plot points involve praying for help and receiving it, without mentioning who is prayed to.  Honesty is a big theme for Grady, who has been taught to lie but who manages to have an honest heart anyway. Your kids will enjoy this book.

The author, Jonathan Rogers, invited people to create and submit Youtube videos on the subject of Feechies, and he posted them on his blog. Inventive folks created all kinds of new scary characteristics for Feechies in these videos. Take a look.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying in the next three days on this book:

Sally Apokedak
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
SarahFlan
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

7 thoughts on “The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers, a review

  1. Jonathan Rogers

    Thanks for your review, Phyllis. Since you mentioned the roaring machine, I thought you might be interested to know that it is based on a real-life episode from my father’s childhood. He lived near Gum Swamp in Dodge County, GA. At night people started hearing moaning and roaring sounds coming from the swamp. As you might imagine, there was plenty of discussion as to what it might be. Some people thought it must have been one of the last remaining panthers in that area. Some thought it was the bellowing of alligators. A few of the more imaginative (or, in any case, sensationalistic) locals said it was a swamp monster. As it turned out, it was an old boy with some time on his hands who had stretched a cowhide across the bottom of a barrel and was pulling a rosined string through a hole in the hide to make it moan and roar. It was simply a prank.

  2. Pingback: CSFF Blog Tour – The Charlatan’s Boy, Day 1, Are Feechies Real? « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  3. Jonathan Rogers

    Matt, I just saw on Sarah Sawyer’s blog that her great-grandfather operated a roaring machine in North Carolina’s Great Dismal Swamp–not so far from Old Trap. You don’t reckon she was hearing that roaring machine, was she?

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