Monday, April 17, 2023

THE THINGS OWEN WROTE by Jessica Scott Kerrin

Small line drawings of house, bat, boy, volcano
Why this book?

It was refreshing to read this unique middle grade novel. Owen is a likeable character and I enjoyed the mystery of wondering about what he had written in his journal that made him want it back so desperately. I also loved the idea of a spontaneous adventure to another country! This is a quieter story with interesting details about Iceland, but it also brings out some of the feelings Owen experiences as he realizes his granddad’s memory is starting to fail. 

Connections: Iceland, anxiety, grandparents, elder care, poetry

Activity Ideas:

Literacy – Make your own journal page about a place you’d like to visit (or a place you’ve been). Do some research to add “little known facts.”

Literacy/Poetry – Choose an object from a place you’ve visited. Make a list of words and feelings you associate with the object. Use your list to create your own poem.

History/Geography: Choose one of Canada’s northern lands, such as Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territory. Find a map and trace or print it. Mark key features of the land. Research the kinds of buildings and animals you might find there.

Literacy Discussion – What do you think about Owen’s terrible secret? Record your thoughts or discuss the resolution to the story. What are your thoughts about using AI to help with writing an essay or assignment?


Description from the publisher:   

Owen has always done well, even without trying that hard. He gets A’s 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?

The Things Owen Wrote, written by Jessica Scott Kerrin was published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press in 2017.

You can find out more about this book, as well as connections to core standards, by visiting the publisher’s webpage HERE


  1. We had an exchange student from Iceland years ago, so I'll have to look this up. Groundwood has so many good titles, but they can be harder to find in the US. Thanks for the review!

  2. I've never read a book set in Iceland. Thanks for sharing it this week.

  3. Sounds interesting. Harriet the Spy-ish. (Although, Owen sounds more sympathetic.) Set in Iceland? I want to read this book.

  4. This sounds like a really cool story. I love the activities you suggested to go along with it.

  5. Sounds a great story, and I like the Icelandic setting. Did Owen cheat and use AI? Great discussion question, I believe it's a big problem in universities these days. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a unique setting and the premise sounds intriguing. Happy MMGM

  7. I like the setup for this plot. The characters and setting have me anxious to get a copy. Thanks for featuring on this week's MMGM.

  8. I love the cover on this book. I was immediately taken by Owen's expression. This sounds like a really important book for young readers. I will be looking for it. Thanks for your review.


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