CSFF Tour: The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers

The Charlatan’s Boy: A Novel by Jonathan Rogers (WaterBrook) is a first person narrative following the adventures of a young boy known only as Grady, who is kept in deplorable conditions by a charlatan named Floyd, who made money by sticking Grady in a cage and charging people money to view a “genuine feechie man,” passing him as a grown native of their island home even at two years old.

Poor Grady is also told by everyone he knows that he is ugly because his chin is weak to the point of being nearly nonexistent, his ears stick out, and he has a unibrow. He also has no idea who his parents are or where he really comes from, as Floyd changes the story of where he got Grady as it suits him.

Disaster strikes when the audiences for feechie shows dry up, due to the “civilizer” populace no longer believing in the native populace they never see. In response, Floyd tells Grady he is not a real feechie, an identity Grady deeply mourns losing. Floyd adds insult to injury by changing the act to the Ugliest Boy in the World. This lasts until an even less physically attractive young man in found in a mining town. After floating unsatisfied from various cons, including reading the bumps on your head and I believe selling snake oil, they decide there’s only one thing to do to get back the show life they loved: invent a feechie scare.

The reasons some protective parents might not care for this book should be fairly obvious. If it’s not, you’re not in that group, and the warning wouldn’t apply to you, anyway. If you’re curious, though, the only positive element in the book that this sort would see is Grady’s desire to find his family, which takes a back seat to conning and scaring the people out of their money. But they can pretty much happily quit reading now, so let’s move on.

The most remarkable thing about Grady is, despite being reared by such a despicable man as Floyd, Grady is anything but ugly on the inside. He has a good heart and a desire for an honest life, even though fear of the unknown and emotional dependency on Floyd keeps him bound to the dishonest life he has always known. Another remarkable thing about Grady is the way he shares his story with the reader. It pretty much is the reader sitting with him in a treetop somewhere, listening to him storytelling in the first person for much of the book, which could have been quite dull, but Grady is strong enough to carry the technique and keep the pages flipping.

I am divided on the emotional abuse content. The book does show some things well, in Grady’s dependency upon Floyd and fear of leaving him, but he is water off a duck’s back about the repeated insults about his appearance. We admire Grady for his attitude, but I am doubtful that it is realistic at his age. Oh, a child like Grady might say “it’s no big deal,” but on some level, it is a huge deal. Only very late in the story did I spot any hint of the deep emotional wound such words would realistically inflict on that poor innocent baby. Some might find that enough, though. We’ll have to see how things develop along those lines in the next book.

This book does have much value to parents not  immediately put off by Floyd and Grady’s profession and deceptions. I think it does a good job showing (and hence teaching) children the anatomy of a hoax and a scam so they can be more wise and not be deceived. Floyd’s professor persona as a Feechie expert in particular plants seeds that charlatans scaring you into actions that benefit them personally can come to you dressed in the robes of an authority/expert. That is no small lesson to learn in this day and age when fear-mongers can be found raving, and manipulating others, on both sides of the political aisle.

CSFF Tour Participants’ links:

Sally Apokedak
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson


  1. I always am interested in your take on the books we feature, Andrea. Thanks for your article.

    I think the scene that most touches me about Grady’s condition (apart from the climax, which I wouldn’t want to give away) was when Short Fronie offered to take him in.


  2. I thought the way that the fraud and deception were handled made it very clear that it was an unappealing lifestyle that would result in nothing but trouble, as Grady feels uncomfortable with it (though he’s known nothing different) and lands in hot water a number of times. But certainly, it would be worth discussing with young readers.

    It’s an interesting connection you made with the manipulation and fraud that occurs regularly from those in places of authority. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Author

    Sarah–Personally, I tend to agree. I wanted to cover all possible bases, as there are some parents for whom that point would be totally lost on. My intent was to do my small part to warn off the sort of reader the author most certainly doesn’t want to be writing reviews on Amazon.

    Thanks. I think the fraud and manipulation from those in authority was dealt with quite subtly.

    Rebecca–you’re welcome, thank you. The scene where Short Fronie offered to take him in was indeed quite touching. I hope I’ve avoided giving away the climax. I saw it coming 200 pages away, and was quite pleased, but wouldn’t want to spoil it for others.

  4. Thanks, Andrea, for your attentive reading of my book. I’ve always been interested in the idea of how kids handle it when people they ought to trust prove to be untrustworthy. That’s one of the main things that drew me to the David story in the Wilderking books. When the boy David showed up at the battlefield, he saw his king, his older brothers, all the men of “the Army of God” terrified at the sight of a giant. In other words, people who should have been modeling faith for him showed that when it came down to it, they didn’t really believe any of the things they said they believe. And yet David was still accountable to that truth. He had an excuse to say, “It’s not the truth: the people who taught it to me don’t even believe it.” But he didn’t. He believed in God, not in people. Is the truth still the truth if it turns out the people who taught it to you don’t believe it themselves? That question is important in the Wilderking…and also in The Charlatan’s Boy (though I wouldn’t want to spoil anything).

  5. p.s. … As for the end, I expected for a lot of people to say they saw it coming, but as it turns out you’re unusual, Andrea. Had you already read the Wilderking books? That would certainly help a reader foresee the end.

  6. Lots to think about here. Thanks! I agree that the charlatan’s patter and the way the audience played into his hands offered great lessons for readers about being gullible. And readers who aren’t gullible to begin with will get a chuckle over those grown villagers who are gullible, I think. Kids love to feel smarter than the characters in books, I think. They love to get the joke.

    I also agree that Grady’s appealing voice and longing to be an honest boy, make him a thoroughly lovable narrator.

  7. Jonathan–you’re welcome. Yes, I had read the Bark of the Bog Owl. It probably does help to know feechies are real. LOL. It still works that way because I was smugly satisfied by the ending. It gave me what I wanted to see. 🙂 Truth is still truth even if no one believes it, and that is a good theme here.

    Sally–Yeah, loveable is a good word for Grady. Nothing ugly about him.

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