Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Secret Life of Owen Skye

Cumyn, Alan (Author)
Groundwood Books 2008. 176 pages
First published: 2002
ISBN: 9780888998675 (paperback)
9781554984602 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Humour

Text Elements:

character

Awards

Mr. Christie’s Book Award – 2002
Governor General’s Literary Award – Finalist – 2002

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This quirky tale of Owen Skye and his two brothers takes place in and around their old farmhouse in a nostalgic past. Readers experience the action-packed world of Owen’s childhood in a series of 11 interconnected adventures. Owen discovers a brass jar that seems to contain the spirit of his grandfather, a haunted house where the Bog Man and his wife live, and a crystal radio that tunes in to news about aliens who landed in a nearby field. Absurd details abound on every page, though the fantastical is always balanced by the real, giving readers insight into Owen’s struggle to make sense of the world and his place in it.

Descriptive language with rich imagery helps readers visualize the setting and its inhabitants, where “his brothers were hovering like hornets around the sugar bowl” and how, when Owen falls in love with a girl in his class, “time with her rushed by like water in a river swollen with rain.” Character descriptions are extraordinarily vivid: “Uncle Lorne was as tall as the house practically and just barely skin and bones, because he’d been cooking for himself so long.”

The voice often juxtaposes the mundane with the ridiculous to great effect: “It might have been the chill from the river water, or the naked run back to the farmhouse, or maybe, as Owen thought, it was the traces of squid scum. At any rate, only a few days after the great expedition, all three boys were sick.”

A lively, funny and sensitive glimpse into a boy’s life.

  •  

    Discuss how the oldest, youngest and middle brothers in Owen’s family are portrayed, and compare them with people you know. Follow up with research on birth order personality traits.

  •  

    Talk about how the boys understand gender roles and discuss whether that differs from your understanding. Discuss any stereotypes that you notice in the book.

  •  

    While Owen and his brothers are sick, they have nightmares that they later share. Make up your own nightmare story, full of details and drama, and tell it to a small group.

  •  

    Humour and exaggeration are integral to this text. Choose a favourite part that includes either element and present it to a partner. How would this excerpt be different without the use of humour or exaggeration?

  •  

    Bog Man and Doom Monkey are imaginary characters in this story. Create your own imaginary character and write a short script or comic strip to describe what would happen if Owen (or you) met this creature.

  •  

    Owen Skye and his brothers have a simple but very active lifestyle. Explain to a partner what activities they do. Compare Owen’s lifestyle to your own.

  •  From the information found in the book, draw a map of the city where Owen lives.
  •  

    Humour and exaggeration are integral to this text. Choose a favourite part that includes either element and present it to a partner. How would this excerpt be different without the use of humour or exaggeration?

  •  

    Think of a personal childhood activity similar to the ones Owen and his brothers had. With a partner, write about it with humour and exaggeration in the author’s style.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To use creativity
  • Citizenship and Community Life