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:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul