I Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore (Mr. Rogers' Fantasy Neighborhood)
The Charlatan’s Boy is unlike any book I’ve ever read. The show of this story is completely stolen by Grady, the narrator and main character. Jonathan Rogers’ use of spelling and word invention to show dialect and lack of standardized education (“perfessor” “prankish”) gives the whole book a distinct and likable tone.
The chapters each read rather like a short story. They certainly do well in the context of the book, but you can’t help feeling that they all have a beginning, middle and end. In a young adult novel (or a novel which likely will be read aloud over a period of many nights) this is invaluable.
I couldn’t help feeling as I was set down in this unreal world in the company of Grady, and Floyd, the charlatan who uses Grady for his “Feechie” act, that I had been there before somehow. This is not dissimilar to the way I felt inside “Jabberwocky” (by Lewis Carroll) for the first time, which is a high compliment. Grady and Floyd travel from town to town scaring well-meaning villagers with talk (and exhibition) of Feechies, a mythical creature said to have terrorized the country in the past. This is the only life Grady has ever known, and he longs to know where he came from (Floyd tells a different story every time, like the showman he is). It is easy to identify with his desire for, well, identity. Even his name changes when he is in character at the whim of Floyd. Occasionally, there are monologues about what village and family life must be like, and we see Grady wishing to know people, to have friends and to build relationships that are not based on lies and always being refreshed by the need to leave town. This quest to know who he is takes Grady deep into himself, and this is a good journey for his audience as well.
I found myself deeply moved by this book. When I picked it up, I expected something light and cheery, and yes, cute. I found all that, but I also found depth and layers. I found something to connect and identify with. I think that you will too.
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To read Chapter One, click here.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.