By: Barbara O'Connor
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 26, 2010
Tooley Graham is the slimiest, largest, most beautiful bullfrog in Carter, Georgia. He's even extremely cool. After all, he was named after a man named Tooley who plays in a rock-and-roll band, and the place where he lives, which is called Graham Pond. Owen Jester is the young boy who caught Tooley, and has been so proud to call the huge bullfrog his own. In fact, Owen spent over a month trying to catch the wonderful beast with the heart-shaped red spot between his bulging yellow eyes, and now spends most of his days doing all he can to build Tooley the best cage in the world.
Owen Jester is a nice, friendly boy whose life has been uprooted recently. He and his parents had to move in with Grandpa when the hardware store closed and Dad lost his job. Now, Grandpa is sick and spends his time upstairs in his bedroom being waited on hand and foot by Earlene. Earlene takes care of Owen's grandpa, but also spends a great deal of her time yelling at Owen - complaining that he's always tracking mud into the house...things that most grownups are always whining about. She even gets Owen in trouble by telling his parents about all the "bad" stuff he's been up to, instead of just keeping her nose out of Owen's business.
Next door lives Viola. Viola is yet another female who runs her mouth a great deal. She always thinks she knows more than everyone else and simply refuses to leave Owen and his two friends - Travis and Stumpy - alone. She follows them wherever they go and seems to "appear" every five minutes in order to give her opinion at just the wrong time.
One night, Owen is sitting up in his bedroom - grounded because of something he supposedly did wrong. He stares down at the small plastic tub where Tooley lives. Owen's been getting a bit scared lately because Tooley doesn't want to eat anymore, and barely jumps at all. As Owen is thinking about how he can make Tooley happier, he hears the train coming in the distance, as it does every night around this time. But then, he hears a strange sound; a thud, followed by the cracking of wood, and then, "tumble, tumble, tumble," like something has fallen off the train and landed down by the tracks, deep in the woods. He can barely wait for the sun to rise so he can be released from his prison and go see what could've made that strange noise.
Soon, readers are taken on an adventure that deals with everything from a saddened buillfrog, to a strange machine that Owen and his friends stumble across during their hunt to explain the odd noise that echoed in the night. With everything that's going on in Owen's suddenly exciting life archenemies become friends, while acceptance, love, and respect quickly become Owen's newest traits.
Quill says: Barbara O'Connor has been writing books for a while now, and has always had the ability to tell a fun, upbeat story that teaches life lessons to a generation that desperately needs to learn some. Some of the absolute best parts of this book are the conversations that Owen begins having with his Grandpa. Not only does Owen confide all of his thoughts and fears about Tooley's depression, he also tells his Grandpa about the strange "machine" in the woods and what he intends to do with it. The comaraderie and true heart between the two characters is a lovely aspect of a truly fun story.