Joe's Adventures: "Fun on the River"
by Joseph J. Dougherty

"Harold was just hanging up the camera when he took one more picture—of Brown, jumping into the river just past Susan, and Brown was swimming toward that giant of a beast."

Dougherty’s book is a charming story that brings to mind some of Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher. The setting is different, though. This author’s story takes place in Ormand Beach, Florida. The timeframe is also different. This narrative unwinds during a summer in 1947. Yet the feelings of youthful exuberance, camaraderie, and kids just being kids reminds one of the yarns Samuel Langhorne Clemens spun so well.

Joe is the protagonist and storyteller. Harold is his good friend, and Susan is Joe’s cousin. In addition to fishing and hanging out, the three wind up sharing multiple experiences plus one rousing adventure. The majority of the story revolves around a raft the two boys build and christen The Frog. It becomes virtually their second home for the summer as they take it out daily for excursions. Susan becomes a member of the crew, as does Brown, Harold’s faithful dog.

Lots of exploits ensue. A kindness leads to their admission by the local yacht club. They wind up with their pictures in the newspaper. The three camp out on a small island where Susan is introduced to the time-honored tradition of snipe hunting. But none of the aforementioned can compare with their death-defying encounter with Big Bend, a legendary alligator who prowls the murky waters.

Dougherty writes straightforwardly—making his sentences and paragraphs easy to understand. He paces his tale briskly, and like most kids’ summers, it seems to fly by. However, this is not before the author has extolled the virtues and rewards of honesty, loyalty, and courage. Nostalgic for oldsters and engaging for youngsters, there’s entertainment for both in this tale.

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