The Things Owen Wrote
This middle-grade novel (for ages 9-12; grades 4-7) is about a grade nine boy who lives Alberta named Owen Sharpe. He must ask himself:
What if covering up the biggest mistake of your life means travelling all the way to Iceland?
Owen has always done well, even without trying that hard. He gets As in school, is an avid photographer and knows he can count on his family’s support. But then Owen makes a mistake. A big one. And now he must face his fear of disappointing his entire family.
A last-minute trip to Iceland, just Owen and his granddad, seems like the perfect way out. For Owen’s granddad, the trip is about paying tribute to a friend with Icelandic roots. But Owen has a more urgent reason for going: he must get back the notebook his granddad accidentally sent to the Iceland archive. He can’t let anyone read the things he wrote in it!
The pair gets on a plane, excited to leave their prairie town for a country of lava fields, glaciers and geysers. However, as they explore Iceland, the plan to recover Owen’s notebook starts to spiral out of control. Why does Owen’s granddad seem so confused and forgetful?
And can Owen really hide the truth of what’s in his notebook?
A freight train whistles forcefully in the distance. Owen’s granddad doesn’t flinch; the sound is so familiar.
But the enormity of what his granddad might have done hits Owen as shockingly as if the freight train has derailed and slammed through the walls into their kitchen.
“Pops. Did you send the wrong notebook?”
“I suppose I did,” Neville says, staring at Gunnar’s notebook as if it had somehow tricked him.
Owen can barely swallow. His notebook! The things he wrote! Oh no!
“Where? Where did you send it?”
“To the archive in northern Iceland. By courier. It will arrive this weekend.”
This is a gentle novel of love, loss, and self-fulfilment, all intertwining in Owen’s life. The present-tense, third-person narrative primarily focuses on Owen’s point of view, permitting a believable and nuanced exploration of his emerging self-awareness. Owen, Neville, and Owen’s dead but much-missed grandmother Aileen are fully realized characters. Even the (real) poet Stephansson emerges from the pages of this quiet tale. A tender and affecting coming-of age story. (Fiction. 10-14) ~ Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2017
An unusual and moving novel. ~ School Library Journal, October, 2017
Field Notes from Iceland
A grant from Access Copyright Foundation made it possible for a research excursion to Iceland. The resulting collection of photographs became the source of inspiration for many scenes in the novel. Jessica also wrote a blog for her publisher, Groundwood, about the inspiration for the book.
- Cover used by permission of Groundwood Books. Text © 2017 Jessica Scott Kerrin, cover illustration © 2017 Christiane Engel / Good Illustration Inc.