Tag Archives: Cape Cod

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott. October 17, 2017. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books, 217 p. ISBN: 9780374305505.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 630.

Owen and his best friend, Sean, are both eleven years old. They’ve lived on Cape Cod all their lives, and now that they’re a little older, they’ll finally be free to spend some time on their own. But Sean’s mother has a different idea–she hires a babysitter to look after Sean. Paul is in his twenties, and a well-liked guy from church.

Paul starts doing things that just feel wrong. Because they’ve always been as close as brothers, Sean tells Owen, and no one else. What’s not certain to Owen is what he should do. Sean warns him not to tell anyone what is happening. But if Owen doesn’t tell, could something even worse happen to Sean?

This harrowing and sensitively told tale of child abuse is a must-read for anyone who might ever be called upon to help a friend in need.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Sexual abuse of a child, Allusion to male genitalia, Allusion to attempted suicide

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
During the summer between fifth and sixth grades, Owen’s best friend is exploited by an adult male babysitter. Narrator Owen Todd is 11, white, living with his parents and 5-year-old sister in a small town on Cape Cod. His father is co-owner with Owen’s uncle of a go-kart business, and his mother makes crafts and volunteers “a couple of places.” Sean Huff, Owen’s best friend from kindergarten, is also white, but he’s diabetic, shorter than Owen, and frequently sits out their baseball games on the bench, and his parents are separated. Sean’s mother has engaged a young white man from their church to “babysit” Sean while she works at a new job in Provincetown. Paul behaves oddly with Sean, failing to close the bathroom door while urinating and, later, “accidently” showing Sean a picture of a naked boy on his cellphone. Sean later reveals to Owen that Paul’s behavior has become aggressive—and includes other men. Abbott handles this escalation with care, demonstrating the ways that a predator can isolate and intimidate a victim. Sean is so wounded and terrified that he convinces Owen he will kill himself if Owen breaks his confidence. Owen acts at last, with a bit of rash courage, but the end of the story is only partly happy. A horror story based on reality, believably and sensitively constructed in the voice of the young protagonist. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (August 28, 2017)
Fifth grade has just ended, and 11-year-old Owen is ready for go-kart racing, baseball, and trips to Cape Cod’s beaches with his best friend Sean. But the summer takes a horrifying turn after Owen learns that Sean is being sexually abused by Paul, a 20-something man from church who Sean’s working mother hired to babysit him, because of her son’s diabetes. As the abuse escalates and video cameras get involved, Owen is desperate but afraid to help his friend; Sean has sworn him to secrecy, not wanting the abuse to become public, and has threatened to kill himself if Owen tells anyone. Abbott (the Copernicus Legacy series) nails the casually jokey relationship between Owen and Sean, the way that it is slowly poisoned by what’s happening (“Every time I get dressed or undressed I think of what Sean told me”), and how trapped and powerless both boys feel. It’s a difficult, important, and possibly lifesaving story of children forced into terrible situations, as well as what real loyalty and friendship look like. Wishing books like this weren’t necessary doesn’t make them less so. Ages 10-14. Agent: Erica Rand Silverman, Stimola Literary Studio. (Oct.)

About the Author

Tony Abbott is the award-winning author of more than a hundred books for young readers, including FiregirlThe Postcard, and the Secrets of Droon series.

Abbott was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1952. His father was a university professor and had an extensive library of books which became one of Abbott’s first sources of literature. When he was eight years old, his family moved to Connecticut where he went through elementary school and high school.

Abbott attended the University of Connecticut, and after studying both music and psychology, decided to study English and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He attended the workshops of Patricia Reilly Giff to further develop his writing after college.

He lives in Connecticut with his family. His website is www.tonyabbottbooks.com

Teacher Resources

The Summer of Owen Todd Teacher’s Guide

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