The Charlatan’s Boy is a southern-style fantasy for middle graders set in Corenwald, the same world as the author, Jonathan Rogers, set his WilderKing trilogy. (Check the ‘Book Reviews’ tab in the header for my take on these stories.)
Grady has known no other life than what he’s experienced with Floyd, who makes his living by cooking up scams and touring from town to town fleecing people. As the story opens, Grady’s part of the act is to be a ‘genuine he-feechie, alive and in the flesh,’ with Floyd posing as his handler and all around feechie expert. Feechies are rumored to be small wild men living in the swamps of Corenwald, but hardly anyone believes in them anymore. So few do that Floyd and Grady have to change up their show, and for a time Floyd passes Grady off as ‘the ugliest boy in the world,’ until someone is proven to be uglier. Poor Grady. All he wants is to belong, to be the best at something, and he can’t even be the best at being ugly.
Eventually Floyd devises a plan to restore the Corenwalders’ belief in feechies and comes up with The Great Feechie Scare. And so begin some of Grady’s happiest days,–until things get out of hand, that is.
For a taste of Rogers’ unique voice, check out the opening paragraphs:
I don’t remember one thing about the day I was born. It hasn’t been for lack of trying either. I’ve set for hours trying to go back as far as I could, but the earliest thing I remember is riding in the back of Floyd’s wagon and looking at myself in a looking glass.
I’ve run across folks claim they know everything about their birthday–where it happened, who they was with, what day it was. But if you really press them, turns out they don’t remember no more about it than I do. They only know what somebody told them.
I don’t care who you are–when it comes to knowing where you come from, you got to take someone else’s word for it. That’s where things has always got ticklish for me. I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I came from, and that man is a liar and a fraud.
Every time I asked Floyd how he got me, he give me a different story. One time he told me he found me squawling under a palmetto bush and took pity on me. That didn’t seem likely since I never known Floyd to take pity on me or anybody else.
Kids and adults alike will love the voice and story of the boy Grady as he searches for a place to belong.
Jonathan Rogers grew up in Georgia, where he spent many happy hours in the swamps and riverbottoms on which the wild places of The Charlatan’s Boy are based. He received his undergraduate degree from Furman University in South Carolina and holds a doctorate in seventeenth-century English literature from Vanderbilt University. He lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee.
Interested in other bloggers’ reviews and discussions? In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, each of us received a free copy of this book from the publisher, though opinions are our own. Check out some of these posts: Sally Apokedak, Amy Bissell, Red Bissell, Jennifer Bogart , Thomas Clayton Booher, Keanan Brand, Beckie Burnham, Jeff Chapman, Christian Fiction Book Reviews, 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
Rebecca LuElla Miller says
I think providing the opening paragraphs is about all most people need to be hooked on this book. If any writer doesn’t understand “voice” all he needs to do is to pick up one of Rogers’ books. There’s such a uniqueness about his work that comes through in every word.
Thanks for being part of the tour, Val.
I agree. A lot of times writers overdo dialect. I know I’ve been guilty. This book could be a textbook on how to do it so it works. I’m not sure how I’d focus on that and not get sucked into the story again!
Keanan Brand says
Yeah, that voice is absolutely perfect for these tales. A true joy to read.