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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Newbery reviews: Onion John



Original cover
Onion John (1960 Newbery Medal winner)

A library-bound copy of Joseph Krumgold's second Newbery-Medal-winning book was on the library booksale shelf. I'm sure the collection retained one copy with newer cover art and that one copy is sufficient. I doubt this gets checked out very often. 

I read Onion John when I was ten or eleven. All I could recall was that I didn't like it. Upon re-reading it I have changed my mind. 

This story of twelve-year-old Andy and Onion John, the eccentric Eastern European immigrant who becomes his friend, is poignant and charming. The townspeople, led by members of the Rotary Club, decide that Onion John needs a modern house, not the cottage he has cobbled together out of leftovers and junk.  

Andy's dad owns the hardware store. He projects his own unrealized dreams on his only son.  He urges     Andy to take a job at a nearby manufacturing plant to better prepare to go to M.I.T. and have a career in engineering.  Andy really likes helping out at the hardware store.  [Whoa, Dad! Andy is only 12!] 

The book can be viewed as a period piece -- late 1950's, small town (everyone is white).  It's a time when the eccentric guy is just that (nowadays we'd be afraid of a criminal or pervert).  Fifty-five years later the object lesson is still relevant: no matter how well-intended we are, we need to consider the wants/needs/preferences of the person, or people, for whom we want to do good things.  

P.S. I am a Rotarian so I appreciated the service effort! 
New cover 

1 comment:

  1. Here's hoping that you do not tire of reading when the sewing studio is still a forbidden stair's climb away. Get well soon with no more bunions!

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