The Secret Life of Owen Skye
Sylvia Pantaleo is an associate professor of education, specializing in
children’s literature, at the University of Victoria. She is the
coauthor of Learning with Literature in the Canadian Elementary
This novel follows the escapades of Owen Skye, and his two siblings,
Leonard and Andy. The trio live in a rundown farmhouse with their mother
and father, who sells insurance. The boys have active imaginations and
extend the “rural legend” about the Bog Man, a creature who emerges
from the bog every day to feast on a body, by adding a Mrs. Bog Man.
According to the boys, she lives in the local haunted house, which they
decide to visit on Halloween night.
As a result of his secret adoration of classmate Sylvia, Owen
experiences the stress of sending Valentine cards, the awkwardness of
attending a girl’s birthday party, and the pain of saying goodbye.
Some of the boys’ other adventures include the investigation of aliens
who are sending mysterious messages via the radio, a narrow escape on
the railway bridge, Uncle Lorne’s wedding, and a pirate expedition
that culminates with the boys running home naked from the river.
The episodic story seems to be set in the 1950s, but the joys and
sorrows of growing up that it chronicles are timeless. The boys’
dialogue is authentic and their conversations, as well as Owen’s
internal thoughts, are often humorous. Although the boys have their
disagreements, they are loyal to each other. Cumyn’s fast-paced novel
is a very entertaining read. Highly recommended.