Official Site of the Award Winning MONTOOTH Series
Book Reviews and Reader Comments
By Laurie Krosney | Anna Maria Island Sun staff writer
Every once in a while, a novel is written that strikes a chord with readers of all ages.
“Montooth and the Canfield Witch” by Robert Jay is just such a novel. It tells a story that will resonate with readers of all ages and all backgrounds.
Meet Catherine “Carty” Andersson, and you meet the innocence and promise of a childhood in a cleaner, less equivocal moral time.
Carty and her gang, “The Crew,” which consists of Blake Holmes, Mack Stein, a recent German-Jewish immigrant to Florida and Hale Wending, a leading student from a large black family.
They are all located in Winter Free, Florida where adventures seem to crop up like kudzu.
“By mere chance, or maybe because of confused directions, but certainly not intentionally, Carty came upon the witch’s house at the edge of Morose Swamp.”
That’s the first sentence, and the plot races on from there.
In the classroom and out, in the house and in the wild swamp and countryside, Carty and her Crew are champions of righteousness as they finish their last year of elementary school.
Take Sally Canfield, the witch. She’s the last descendant of ancestors driven from Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials in the 17th century. She’s feared by most of the Winter Free residents.
But when she needs rescuing, The Crew is stalwartly by her side, and they get a little help from Sally as well.
It’s the time of the Cuban revolution, and Cruz Cruz, a/k/a “The Cuban,” makes a fine bad guy for Carty and her friends to battle.
Add in Montooth, an enormous alligator with a one large, misplaced tooth, who lives in Duck Lake and protects ducks, and you have the treat of a fable, a story within the story that details Montooth’s origins.
The story is set in Florida, and the use of a classroom project to find native plants makes a marvelous vehicle for describing Florida flora and the extremes to which The Crew had to go to secure the specimens.
“They had to wait out one mid-sized alligator and circle around a nasty mess of cottonmouths, but their search was safe and successful. The six specimens the pair found were not uncommon, but were those that grew in the more accessible locations, including an insectivore, a rootless bladderwort (Utricularia floridana).
“Carty had found only two, but hers were among the rarer varieties on the list: a Florida spiny pod (Matelea floridana) and a Florida coontie (Zamia pumila). ‘Do you remember Mrs. Tyron telling us in the early Florida history, some of the coonties were used as food by the Indians?’ she asked Mack. ‘They don’t look very edible to me.’”
With some nasty classmates trying to win the native specimen contest for the school, The Crew has to counter the moves of some pretty nasty but typical schoolyard bullies.
While fending off the bullies, Carty and her friends have to do battle with some grown up psychopaths as they struggle to save Sally from Cruz Cruz and his henchmen.
Even Montooth gets in on the act at this point in the story.
“Montooth and the Canfield Witch” moves with breakneck speed through the calmer, quieter culture of 1950s rural Florida.
It was written to appeal to young readers, but everyone who’s picked it up, adults and kids alike, have been caught up in the tale which makes for thoroughly enjoyable reading.
By Jolie Bell | Author of The Tugger series | Past President, Friends of the Island Library, Holmes Beach, FLThis is the first in a series of exciting tales of the adventures of Carty, Blake, Hale, and Mack, aka The Crew. While working on a school assignment, these heroic young teens find intrigue and danger in Winter Free, a small Florida town in the 1950s. The Crew, a gigantic alligator, a mysterious witch, the sinister Cruz and a few more corrupt characters come together in Morose Swamp to create a setting for cunning, evil, courage and wit.
Carty, a thirteen year old tomboy, is the unquestionable leader of The Crew. Her close family relationships and her bravery, athletic skills, honesty and ethics maker her a positive role model for today’s youth. The four protagonists are growing up in a time when courtesy and compassion were acceptable and expected modes of behavior for teens.
In addition to the storyline, there’s plenty of historical data and background information about the Florida terrain, wildlife and values of the 50s. I especially found the cigar-making process in Ybor City of interest.
I’ll be anxious to see what challenges face Carty and The Crew as they enter high school.
"This book is amazing! I can't wait to read it again and again. The sequel should be amazing!" "Can’t wait to see what will happen next... "
- Jeremy, age 14, Uniontown, OH
"I loved the book so much. At first I only read for a couple minutes at a time. Then it got so good I finished the rest of it in one day. I can't wait for the second book to keep me intrigued for part of the summer."
- Andrea, age 14, Yucaipa, CA
"It is a true treasure reading a story with many positive lessons for younger adults and children, all the while being entertaining!"
- Steve Todd, "The Mystery of the Names"
Contest Winner, Costa Mesa, CA
"I LOVED it! I recommend this book to everyone!"
- Emily, age 14, NY
"Every once in a while, a novel is written that strikes a chord with readers of all ages."
- Laurie Krosney, Anna Maria Island Sun
staff writer, Holmes Beach, FL
"It was the coolest book ever."
- Shepard, age 10, Decatur, GA
"I’m ready for the second book!"
- Kelee Dias, fan and mother to fan Emilee, age
16, Lakeland, FL
- Christine Steyer, Teacher at the American
International School, Vienna, Austria
"Can’t wait to see what will happen next... "